Category Archives: Womb for Rent: A Surrogacy Story

It’s Not Me, It’s You: Break Ups in a Surrogacy

If you are  on the giving end or receiving end, it doesn’t really matter; break ups are sucky for everyone.  And whatever the reasons are, it feels like it’s not enough, as if there needs to be more explaining, and closure can be hard to find for a lot of people. Breaking up a surrogacy relationship isn’t any different.  In fact, in some ways it’s more difficult than dumping that creep from college.  Emotions are already running full throttle during a surrogacy, so when wrinkles turn into speed bumps (or even all out spike strips), putting on the breaks and calling it quits before spinning out of control is often the best option.

The relationship with my Intended Parents wasn’t going well.  Even before the embryo transfer, things just didn’t feel right.  At first it was the interpreter, Wayne.  I didn’t like him personally.  I cringed whenever I had to speak with him or spend time with him.  He was just a jerk; making the situation all about him, flashing the Armani tag in his shirt, trash-talking his own wife, and bragging about money and a job he didn’t even have.  Then there was the fight the night before the transfer.  I witnessed Wayne wrestling the Intended Father, Steve, in the hallway of the hotel right after I had heard him throw an iPad at his own wife (which hit the wall between our rooms).  Then after our stay we discovered some tidbits of info about the family that left me feeling a bit uneasy.  For one, Wayne is not anyone’s brother-in-law since he’s NOT married.  Oh, and his “wife” ISN’T the sister to the Intended Mother, Sara, but, maybe a cousin…they weren’t real clear on giving us the rest of that story.  And if that wasn’t enough, I learned that Sara had NEVER had a miscarriage.  The three (or ten as reported in some places) miscarriages that were reported to the fertility clinic were in fact elected abortions because at the time she and her husband “weren’t financially ready for children”.  And, they used the fact that they had never had a miscarriage as the reason why my miscarriage of their embryo had to be solely MY fault.  They were very hurt by the miscarriage, as any parent would be, however, the way it was handled was borderline abusive.  They would go weeks without speaking to me at all, to then randomly call me (or show up at my house) to demand to know what I did to cause the miscarriage.  As a gestational carrier it was horrible.  It was anxiety inducing.  It was torturous.  On one side I knew that it wasn’t me, that I didn’t do anything.  The doctors told me so.  Statistics told me so.  It was normal, actually, it was almost expected.  But on the other side I felt like a huge failure.  I had failed.  I wondered if my running had caused it, if I had picked up my daughter weird, if I had missed something important.  I agonized over the why of that miscarriage.  Despite how they made me feel, I planned on trying again once my cycles returned.  But, then things escalated.

The Intended Parents and Wayne came over for a visit.  They were supposed to stay in town for a few days and I was a bit excited to show them around where we lived.  But during dinner they announced that they were leaving that night.  We understood that they had things to do (and a second surrogate carrier to visit in PA) so we didn’t want to take it personally.  When the check came at the end of the meal, my husband handed over cash and paid the bill.  He figured that they had paid last time, so he’d pay this time.  Also, he was the one that brought along our three kids, ordered a ton of food including appetizers, and picked the restaurant.  No big deal, right?  Wrong.  The IPs and Wayne threw a huge fit and our table became the center of attention in this packed restaurant.  There was lots of yelling and pointing and carrying on.  The waiter was yelled at.  Managers were called over and yelled at.  There was a loud discussion over who got to pay.  In the end my husband’s cash won out over their credit cards.  Then the argument continued out in the lobby when Wayne squared off with my husband.  “You’re lucky you’ve got kids with you,” he spat at him, “otherwise I’d knock you out right now!”  Poor Hubs.  He tried to diffuse the situation by explaining that he was just trying to be friendly by taking his turn with the bill.  But Wayne responded with “You have three kids!  You don’t have the money for this!  If I’d known you’d insist to pay then I would have made sure we went to McDonald’s cause that’s what you can afford.”  And that was the last I heard from him.

I contacted my agency and told them the situation and that I no longer felt safe working with this family.  I kept getting “Are you sure?” type Emails back in response.  Being both polite and firm with the agency was more difficult than I had anticipated.  I finally made it clear to them that I would not be continuing with the family.  The response back from the agency was strange.  First I was told that I was at fault because I was misinterpreting their motives and their culture.  I was urged to reconsider because they had been so nice to me, giving me money and buying me things.  I was told that I was lucky because no other set of parents would be so nice or tolerate so much.  But, once I was firm about the break up I  was told I wouldn’t be put back on the surrogate roster because my “medical history was incomplete due to my previous homebirths”.  Later, almost two weeks later, I was finally asked for a termination letter from my lawyer.  Also, between those two weeks I received phone calls from the family’s fertility clinic wanting to know when I was ready to come back in for a second transfer!

I’ve been trying to break up with this family for nearly two months now and I’m honestly not sure if they fully get it yet.   I keep getting mixed messages from everyone from my agency to their doctors to the lawyers which indicate that they may not have even been told.  And every time I tell someone that I’m terminating the contract I get a shocked response, as if surrogates never break up with IPs, which only makes me feel worse.  Throughout the process I’ve constantly been second guessing my choices and constantly being bullied into making new ones.   But, I’ve come to realize that any relationship that is this difficult to get out of is an unhealthy one, be it that creep from college, Intended Parents in a surrogacy arrangement, or a boss.  You should never have to repeat yourself or your reasons for breaking it off, and someone who keeps coming back for more explanation, more closure, more you is not getting over it or moving on, and that’s not healthy.  Get away from these people fast, and don’t look back!

I’ve contacted my lawyers about the situation and (I think) they are handling it, though I don’t get much feedback from anyone.  I’ve since moved on from everyone involved and am starting over with a new agency, new doctors and will be using a new lawyer.  I’m jaded now and I’ve told the new agency so.  I’ve also closed off some doors on who I’ll consider being a surrogate for.  But I’ve also learned a lot about the surrogacy process as well as people in general.

Number One: Ask questions, even the straightforward ones.  Even the embarrassing ones.  Ask them.  And keep asking them until you are satisfied with the answers. Make people explain themselves and expand on their answers until you have the full story.
Number Two: It’s ok to set limits, to have expectations, and to be selective.  It doesn’t make you a bad person to say no or to turn someone down.  It doesn’t make you a bad person to keep searching for that person or situation that matches your morals, ideals, and dreams.
Number Three: Trust your gut.  If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.  Act on your gut immediately because letting things drag out makes everything ten times worse for everyone.

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Devastated

Today was cold and rainy, much like my mood.  It was tiresome, it was painful and heart wrenching.  You could say it was the worst day of my life.

Hubs and I got up at 5am and it was still very dark.  We warmed up the car and carried our three sleeping children wrapped in their coats out to their car seats.  After a stop at the gas station for a fill up and some Dunkin’ we were on our way to Bridgport for a belated 9 week ultrasound.  The sun was up once we finally got there, but couldn’t be seen behind the thick layer of clouds.  I trudged into the fertility clinic for the last of my monitoring before I’d officially be turned over to regular OB care.  (Hubs and kids were with me because the drive without traffic was an hour and a half.  Hubs had a meeting at work in a few hours he couldn’t miss, so I would have to drop him at work after my appointment and then fight Hartford traffic back home myself.)

I was the first appointment of the day at 7am sharp and was ushered into the small room right away.  The technician went to work right away on my exam.  But she quickly swiveled the monitor out of my view and I watched her crystal clear blue eyes searching and scanning in vane.  She moved the ultrasound wand and tried various pressures.  She wouldn’t look at me, but I knew.  There wasn’t a heartbeat any longer.  She removed the wand as she apologized profusely.  Back in the waiting room she took my fertility clinic’s contact information as well as my OB’s. She apologized and fumbled a hug.

I let go in the stair well on my way down to the car and my awaiting family.  How could this be?  What happened? How on Earth would I tell them after everything they had been through?  I hadn’t intended on being emotional, but the frustration took the form of hot, stinging tears.

Once I finally got home I first called my OB to get a message to my doctor.  He called me back within 10 minutes and told me his receptionist would call me later to set up an appointment because he wanted to see me as soon as possible.  Next I called my contact person at the surrogacy agency.  I was told not to call the parents since that would be done by the fertility clinic.  I was told not to worry, it wasn’t my fault, and that miscarriages are very common.  After we hung up, I called the clinic and told them what happened.  By now I had an appoint with the OB for later in the day. The nurse reiterated what my agent had told me and said to go to the OB and update her once I got home.

Sigh.  Throw some laundry in the washer, make some lunch for the kids, wash hands and faces, and rush my four year old to preschool all while charging my phone and staying close in anticipation of more calls.

The OB’s office was understanding, and I was very thankful they were willing to see me on such short notice.  I had assumed I was getting another ultrasound, but instead he only talked to me about signing paperwork to consent to a D & C.  Blindly I signed and set it up, then bundled two of my three kids back out the door so I could rush to pick the third up from preschool.

I spent the day in a fog as well as shivering from both the damp cold and the shock.  I really wanted it to be wrong.  I really wanted a second opinion.  While I knew it wasn’t my fault, I felt it had to be something or someone’s fault.  I searched Google with as many different combinations of key words as I could come up with.  No one could give me an answer except that it happens.  It’s normal.  It’s common.  1 in 5 pregnancies end in miscarriage while mothers over 40 (like my intended mother and her eggs) have a 1 in 2 chance.  Oh, and there isn’t anything that can be done to prevent it.

Finally after supper I was able to have a conference call with one of the nurses from the clinic and the parents’ interpreter, Wayne.  She told us that the fetus had measured 8 weeks and 4 days, so it ceased about a week ago.  I was told to end my injections and go ahead with the D & C, however the clinic was requesting that after the fetus be tested (I think for chromosomal abnormalities).  Again, we were told it was no one’s fault and that it “just happens”.

After the nurse left the three way call, Wayne’s voice took on a different tone.  He started asking questions about what I had been doing in the past two weeks; how much had I been lifting, did I fall on anything, how much was I running, and were Hubs and I being sexually active.  I knew what he was doing.  He told me just how pissed off and upset the parents were (completely understandable).  Then he said he wasn’t going to make conclusions until the results came back from the fetal test.  If it turned out to not be my fault after all, then they would discuss a second try.

While it did hurt my feelings that their grief was being taken out on me in such an accusatory way, I did understand the immensity of their loss and could not take it personally.  They need to be alone to deal with their loss in their own way, just as I need to be alone to deal with it in my own way.  We agreed to not contact until after the D & C procedure.  Hopefully next week we will have a few more answers and will be able to move on to the next step.

Two Months Pregnant!

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Here I am at eight weeks. Yep, I’m getting bigger, slowly but surely, I am getting bigger.

The Side Effects are Kicking My Butt

I’ve been lazy lately; lazy with keeping up with my posts, lazy with making dinner (my kids have been eating the likes of fish sticks, mac & cheese, and pizza for several days in a row now), and lazy with house keeping (I haven’t made my own bed in a week).  But I’ve been so incredibly, ridiculously, painfully TIRED for weeks now.  It’s one of those deep seated fatigues that a nap won’t touch and not even 8 solid hours of shut eye can shake.  And I’m not allowed to self medicate with Red Bull.

I’ve been taking the hormone injections for about two months now, and while initially I didn’t experience too many side effects, I am realizing now that they are indeed catching up with me.  Sure, the Lupron injections in the abdomen weren’t too bad, however, the daily shot in the rear of Progesterone and the bi-weekly shot of Delestrogen are very hard on the body.  Drugs.com has a rather daunting list for both drugs, and unfortunately for me, I am beginning to experience a lot of those side effects.http://www.drugs.com/sfx/progesterone-side-effects.html
http://www.drugs.com/sfx/delestrogen-side-effects.html

The ones I’ve been dealing with as of late are as follows:
*chest pains/angina
*chills
*cold or flu-like symptoms (This hit the hardest shortly after we got  back from CA for the transfer. I thought I either got the flu from someone, despite my flu shot, or was dealing with a reaction to a spider bite. Turns out it was my nightly butt-jabbings!)
*persistent crusting of the nipple (yup, as sexy as it sounds)
*bloating & weight gain
*confusion
*diarrhea
*dizziness, especially when standing up
*headache
*hives (only happened once, thank goodness…thought it was a spider bite!)
*irrational irritation
*itching (EVERYWHERE!)
*joint pain, stiffness
*nausea
*numbness or tingling in arms or legs
*pounding, rushing or ringing in the ears
*pelvic discomfort, aching or heaviness
*sweating
*tightness in the chest
*unusual tiredness or weakness
*breast pain or tenderness
*changes in behavior (hahahahahahaha, *weep*, ROAR)
*depression
*muscle or joint pain
*runny nose

I know, impressive list, right? Thankfully I don’t experience everything all at once or all the time.  I think I would die.  But, what gets to me the most are the muscle & joint pain, the headaches, extreme fatigue, and depression.  I’m sure a lot of it feeds into each other (which helps bring out the irrational anger later). The worst part about dealing with it all, especially the depression part of it, is that I know it’s all just a side effect: my feelings, thoughts, reactions, even pain aren’t really real.  And that is frustrating because it all FEELS so damned real.  I’m experiencing a real sadness or anger toward something that seems like it has a legitimate root cause (namely my husband), but I know deep down that I’m not really upset…that I wouldn’t feel this way or be thinking these thoughts if I weren’t taking these drugs.  And my body pains–some days it’s hard to accept that nothing is wrong, nothing is causing them, and nothing is going to make them go away until my course of drugs is complete.  Telling myself this helps, sometimes.  And sometimes reminding myself that I’m a Scot, therefore I can withstand anything helps.  But, sometimes I can barely move & throwing a frozen pizza in the oven is a huge ordeal.  Sometimes I just go to bed really angry & try not to cry.

As much as it truly sucks, it will end.  I will be ten weeks on March 29th and at that point my placenta should be substantial enough to support the baby without the use of these hormone injections.  It is almost over!

Perhaps the saddest part about this whole drug ordeal is that it is making me really think about whether or not I want to do future surrogacies.  While some days it’s a real struggle both mentally & physically, I know I can handle it. I can get though it.  But subjecting my children and husband to it is another thing.  Even though I’m the one carrying the baby, they are the ones carrying me & I’m not entirely sure their shoulders can hold so much for so long.  The side effects of the drugs effect everyone involved, including the surrogate’s family and friends.  And, while it’s only about three months worth of hormones, it certainly feels like an eternity!

 

 

One Month Pregnant!

One Month Pregnant
Now, I know it doesn’t show yet, but I’m a month pregnant!  (Actually, I forgot to post this earlier, so really, as I write this, I am 5 weeks and 3 days pregnant…but you get the point.) Now, I know I’m not really that pregnant; after all, I know exactly when I conceived this child (February 6th at 11:45am), making me only 2 weeks and 5 days along, but the estimated due date is still based off my last known period, giving me an extra two weeks.  I know…weird and a bit confusing.  A lot of things are weird and a bit confusing when it comes to pregnancy though.

One Month PregnantI am happy to report that for now I am still symptom-free.  Even though all of my pregnancies were fairly easy, none of them were exactly alike, and I am well aware that symptoms can come out of the blue.  AM was only a wee bit of nausea, but lots of food cravings and fatigue.  IM was blissfully symptom-free.  Sometimes I’d forget I was pregnant until I caught a glimpse of myself & large belly.  RM, the girl, came with never ending mood swings, nausea, morning sickness, and sore backs.  Perhaps having another boy will be easy!

The Results Are In

They say the waiting is the hardest part and man, oh man, when you are waiting for a pregnancy test it sure is!  The fertility clinic gave me a whole list of things I couldn’t do until the pregnancy had been confirmed via blood test.  Of the Refrain From Or Else List, no running, no lifting over 40 lbs, and no sexual intercourse were really getting to me.  But I still had to wait the ten days until I would have enough of hCG (the pregnancy hormone) to register.

I am part of a surrogacy support group on Facebook, and all the ladies there were taking home pregnancy tests and posting pictures of them.  But I was afraid of testing too early & getting a false negative & then being bummed out & possibly stressing out….and God forbid Wayne or the parents find out….  So I exercised my will power & held out as long as I could, which was Friday (14th, Valentine’s Day).  It felt as if an eternity had passed before the test FINALLY registered, though I suppose it wasn’t more than a minute and a half.  And it was a sweet sigh of relief to see this:
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That 1-2 means one to two weeks pregnant 🙂

I did have my actual blood test the next day.  Urine stick tests are not as accurate as blood tests and cannot test for the amount of hCG hormone in the blood stream, only that it is present.  In general pregnancies it doesn’t really matter, especially if the woman knows the date of her last menstrual period.  However, when doing an IVF pregnancy exact numbers are necessary.  Thankfully I didn’t have to go all the way into Hartford again to the fertility clinic there, but instead got to use a regular lab clinic for the blood draw.  They opened at 7am Saturday morning and I was the first in line, ready to go.  But, then I had to wait all day to get the results back.

A nurse from Pacific Fertility Clinic, the IP’s clinic in California, called around 6pm to inform  me of my results.  I was told that a 50 or more was needed to indicate a pregnancy.  My results were 115!  While the numbers were great, I wasn’t in the clear yet.  I would have to return in 48 hours to take another test to make sure that the hCG levels were rising like they should.  That meant that today I was there again at 7am with my sleeve up dishing out more blood.  This time, I was told that it was necessary for my numbers to have doubled from my previous test.  And BAM! I came back with a 270!!

I am certifiably pregnant!  After so many months of idle chatter with Wayne and signing and resigning of paperwork, we have finally gotten this party started and it feels great.  But at the same time, it’s a little intimidating.  We are past the point of no return and I do have fleeting moments of wondering if I’ve gotten in over my head.  And I find myself having to talk it up a lot in my head.  I am weary of how it will all play out; the doctors, the parents’ involvement in the the pregnancy, testing, and my first hospital birth.  Though I’ve been pregnant three times before, this is my first in so many ways.  This is going to be an interesting journey to say the least.

An Embryo is Transfered

The past week has been a whirlwind of craziness.  On Monday Hubs’ parents flew in from FL to watch the kids. In the wee hours of Tuesday morning Hubs & I got up and went to the airport to fly to San Francisco.  Wednesday we toured Napa Valley.  Thursday was the embryo transfer followed by bed rest.  Friday was back to touring San Francisco.  Saturday we flew as far as Chicago, but issues with the plane landed us & kept us overnight.  Sunday was back to flying home to CT.  Monday we lounged around until Hubs’ parents had to fly back.  It’s now Tuesday again and I’m exhausted!

Thursday the 6th was a very amazing day.  Because there is a three hour time difference, I was waking up wicked early. So at 3:33am my eyes were wide open.  I was nervous and excited.  Time crawled.  There weren’t any decent posts on Facebook or anything terribly riveting on TV.  Eventually the sun came up but it brought a heavy rain with it.  Everything outside was cold, wet, slate.  I met up with Steve, the Intended Father (IF) at 7:30 in the hotel lobby for a short run along the bay before we headed to Chinatown for breakfast.fertilitycenter.jpgWe arrived at the fertility clinic at 11am.  We being Steve and Sara (IPs), Anna (Sara’s sister & interpreter), Hubs and myself.  By 11:30 Sara and I were taken into a wee tiny little room where I changed from the waist down into a pre-warmed blanket.  Within a few minutes an interpreter and a technician came in to do an ultrasound of my uterus and bladder, which by now was quite full.  Then the endocrinologist came in to verify that we matched the paperwork.  When she was satisfied that we were who we said we were she stepped out and another doctor stepped in.   The technician held the ultrasound wand against my belly and the doctor inserted the speculum.  She then rinsed and swabbed my cervix, which I have to admit was a bit awkward and slightly uncomfortable.  Once my cervix was nice and clean the endocrinologist stuck an arm back in the door and handed the doctor one baby boy blastocyte.  It was inserted through a catheter and a television monitor illustrated what was happening down below. I was mesmerized by the images.  I hadn’t realized that I’d actually get to watch!  I know it wasn’t the actual embryo, nothing more than an air bubble behind it, but it was very easy to imagine it representing the little seed of the soon to be baby.  Sara didn’t say anything but her smile was enormous.

Everyone left the room and I remained to lay back and wait.  I stayed reclining for about 20 minutes or so before I was allowed to get back up.  After some more paperwork was completed, we headed back to the hotel.  That was it.  That quick.  That painless.  That easy!

I spent the rest of the day on bed rest, which I have to admit was incredibly boring.  I was a bit glad for the rain so I didn’t really feel like I was missing too much.  Hubs got bored in no time, so I told him to go roam.  He and the IPs went off into the city for playing and dining while I sipped homemade chicken soup in the hotel room watching daytime television.  The hardest part of bed rest was that I didn’t FEEL anything! I didn’t feel pregnant or sick, I didn’t even have any cramping.  In fact, I felt great.  I felt ready to go run a marathon…except that all this laying around put a kink in my back and made my legs stiff.  I was actually elated once it was bedtime so I could just shut my brain off and be done with the day.

Waking up early on Friday to the realization that I could not going running through the streets of San Francisco was a bit of a bummer.  Check that; it was a serious bummer.  While it’s hard to be forced to take it easy for a week or so it’s just incredible to know that there is a tiny miracle inside of me getting ready to grow.  I have to say, after my exhausting week, I am very impressed with science.