It’s been a busy two weeks since our last post, filled with packing, cleaning (yechh), and lots of last meals and goodbyes! Before we knew it, it was the morning of August 29th, and our day had already started with loading up the last batch of our stuff before hitting the road. Moving and tying up some loose ends has served as a wonderful distraction on the surrogacy process, but both K and I were more than aware of that we should be hearing another update from Biotex with the 7-8 week scan. And sure enough, an email awaited us in our inbox with the message that we are having TWINS, as you can see below!
If all goes well, they should be arriving around March 18th, 2018! The minute both of us got the news, we immediately started tearing up, because it just seems like it is too good to be true! K is still maintaining a hardcore stance on not getting too hopeful before the first trimester is over, which is a wise way to approach it, although I have completely abandoned that idea, haha! The news also came attached with a report:
At first, I had no idea what any of these numbers meant – but Dr. Google was more than happy to explain. The American term for middle inner diameter (MID) is gestational sac diameter (GSD), which is always measured along with the crown rump length (CRL). According to this report and the scans, baby A has about a 9mm headstart when it comes to the gestational sac, but we’ll have to see if this continues on or they even out towards the end! I looked up a chart and it was right on the mark as far as the numbers go – 21 to 32mm GSD, and 14mm CRL, which right around 7 – 8 weeks gestation. We didn’t get to hear heartbeats with this one, but we are more than happy with the news that we did receive!
Our next scan will be the 12th week scan – which will be a marker that we’ve never made before in our attempts in the past. In so many ways, we can’t believe that this time will be rolling around at the end of September! K and I couldn’t believe how fast everything was going, because before, reaching the 12 week mark felt like an eternity and a half! I plan to write her a letter soon to check in with her. In the meanwhile, more posts to come, but we’ll be trucking on our way to IN, so this one will have to be short and sweet. Stay tuned :)!
Everyone has been asking us how our two week wait has gone this time, and I have to be honest, it has been the best two week wait ever! The reasons for this are:
- I’m not stressed out about being careful about everything I eat or do
- No pressure on my body to do this “right”
- No feverish early testing with the typical ups and downs
- No stressing about beta levels not doubling
- Distracted because we are moving to Indiana at the end of August
- Distracted because I am interviewing for jobs in Indiana, which require a presentation
- Distracted due to sorting through our mess, packing boxes, and having people constantly over to see our apartment
As you might imagine, with all of this going on, it’s been easy to be distracted and stressed about other things, and so the time flew by. Because we did our transfer on July 22nd, we also thought that our surrogate would do her pregnancy on August 5th, so we were expecting something by Saturday night or Monday morning at the latest. But to our surprise, Yaryna called us early morning Friday to share that:
OUR SURROGATE IS PREGNANT, WITH A BETA OF 1116!!!
So, the thoughts that are running through my head:
- Ohmygod, did this really work?!?! This is totally surreal and UNBELIEVABLE
- Okay now, don’t get too excited, because we’ve miscarried in weeks 6 – 9, and it’s only week 4…
- But then again, the embryos are in a 20 year-old uterus, compared to my ancient 37 year-old hostile womb environment
- Wow, the beta for 13dp5dt is right on the mark for twins, according to http://www.betabase.info! Could it be that our dreams are coming true?! INSANE
- Okay now, don’t get too excited, because we’ve miscarried in weeks 6 – 9, and it’s only week 4…
So that’s been pretty much on an endless repeat in my head when I think about it surrogacy, while K, the realist between us, is probably patiently only focused on #2. Obviously, that is the best way to go, to be hesitant to get too happy, because we’ve been there 3 times before, and were absolutely crushed when we lost them. Plus, I’m still pretty stressed about interviewing and moving, so it has been easy to put things on the back burner. The next time we’ll hear from Biotex is on August 29th, because they are closed from the 14th – the 27th. Because of the break, I’m expecting them to have a huge number of people back to do ultrasounds and check-ups and such, so giving them until late Tuesday or early Wednesday to get back to us. Although they usually do the first ultrasound on week 6, because of the break, I’m estimating that our surro will be 7w+4d, which isn’t a bad thing in my mind. The later, the more certain we can feel! Incidentally, August 29th is also the day we are moving and leaving Boston, so things will be a bit crazy! But definitely will keep everyone posted on how things go.
We finally got our embryo grading report! We hadn’t received any information on how the embryos were developing, and it was great to finally get a look. This embryo grading report is a lot different from the ones we’ve received in the US; but it was pretty easy to figure it out. To summarize, we had 18 mature eggs, which were fertilized and grown to day 3. One of the embryos didn’t make it, so we ended up having 17 embryos. 14 embryos were frozen after making it to day 3 as 8 celled, as you can see below (they are marked as 8bl,l). 7 embryos made it to day 5 as blastocysts, and the best three were transferred to the surrogate, while the other 4 were frozen. We were a bit surprised, because our original plan was to only grow 3 to the blastocysts stage without doing the preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), as the process involves taking out a cell from the embryo, which can cause the embryo to fail, as any disturbance to the embryo can cause damage. Embryos of bad quality does not result in a baby that has issues of some sort; rather, it results in no pregnancy at all.
According to the report below, they actually grew out another 4 to blastocysts stage before freezing them. When I emailed my case manager about this, she assured me that if the transfer should fail, that we could take any of the day 3 embryos and have PGD completed, which determines if there are any genetic issues in the embryo, and also what sex the embryos are. I’m guessing that the clinic wanted to freeze a few more blastocysts in case we changed our mind about doing the PGD. Either way, we’re happy to know that we have plenty of backup embryos just in case we need to try again, or if we decide to have another child in the future.
I find it interesting that we had so many embryos from this round of IVF, where in the past, we had about 10 day 5 blastocysts, which isn’t a bad haul either. We wondered why we had so many this time, and came to the conclusion that maybe the eggs were in better shape because they let them grow out to past the usual threshold that we’ve had in the past, where they would trigger when the follicles were around the 16 – 18mm range. The last ultrasound we had showed the follicles being size 12mm – 19mm, and I had another day of stimming and the Lupron trigger, before coasting to the egg retrieval. In theory, that means the 19mm could have grown to 25mm, although I have no idea what size the follicles were at retrieval. So this is just a theory that we came up with, and we might be completely wrong, so take this with a grain of salt.
As I got ready for bed Friday night, it occurred to me that I might have already met our surrogate, as there were a couple of Ukranian women staying the night next door, and the thought of it made me nervous! I knew that this opportunity was precious, as the usual circumstances of meeting our surrogate happens only after the 12th week, and clearance of the first trimester. However, since OHSS landed me there, almost providentially, it seems, I gingerly started to write a short letter that I would have our case manager Anna translate to her once we met in person. As I started to type out my thoughts, I started to tear up uncontrollably, to my surprise – I knew that I would be a mess when I met her in person, but didn’t think I would start the waterworks while writing a letter. Well, you are chock-full of hormones, I thought to myself, and starting having a strange craving for potatoes.
I tossed and turned as per usual until 6am, even though I had even gotten a shot for my insomnia! I requested it from the nurse on Friday night using my handy Google Translate, and she gave me the shot around 930pm. Then, she checked in on me every hour after that, and each time I was bright awake, nowhere close to sleeping. I mumbled an apology and told her not to worry around 1130pm, because I knew it was just not going to happen. I thought about asking for another shot, but then I didn’t want to be passed out and miss meeting our surrogate, who was supposed to arrive at 930am, and so I just went with it.
Around 630am, the nurse came in and gave me all of my IV’s and meds and shots, and I hung around to see whether I could catch a glimpse. Feeling like an all-out surrogate stalker, around 9am I went into the other room, which was filled with 6 other girls this morning – and I realized that the two other girls from the previous nights must have been egg donors, not surrogates. My excuse to go into the room was to get my leftovers from the fridge, and as I walked by, one of the girls was signing our surrogate agreement, which had our names on it! DAAAAAAAAAAAAAH I tried not to stare and continued to nonchalantly grab my potatoes and walked back to my room with a short little glimpse at the woman. She was a tiny little thing, with platinum blonde hair, around 5ft and 100lbs tops. At this point, I was so nervous after seeing her, nothing was going to go down this piehole, and I waited nervously on my cot for what seemed like hours. Soon, the hours lost during the night caught me snoozing at 8am, and out of my paranoia, I set an alarm on my phone for 915am, just in case I wouldn’t wake up in time. However, who was I kidding!??! I did doze off, but even in my sleep, I was stressed about meeting the surrogate, and woke myself up to find that only 15 minutes or so had passed.
930am rolled by, with texts from K saying that he was trying to hitch a ride to the clinic but was a bit behind, which was unfortunate for him, as there rolled in Anna with our surrogate, Yuliya! I knew that this meeting would be awkward, but it didn’t help that I immediately started to tear up and had the ugly cry face on, greeting her and giving her a hug, and handing my phone over to Anna to translate. Here is the short letter that I had Anna translate:
To our lovely surrogate,
We have been trying to have children for 5 years, and have never been successful through countless infertility treatments and multiple miscarriages. Truly, we were at a loss as to what to do, and felt that our dreams of becoming parents were slipping away from us day by day. But because of you, today we have hope, and words cannot express our gratitude for your willingness to do this for us. Especially for me, as a woman that is unable to carry a full-term pregnancy, the shame has been unbearable – but today, I feel that you have redeemed me! Please do not feel pressure to perform or be afraid of disappointing us – we know anything can happen and it will never be your fault. But regardless, thank you from the bottom of our hearts for trying.
As Anna started to translate, I started to straight up sob, and soon both Anna and Yuliya’s eyes were all streaming down with tears. I was so embarrassed but not at the same time, the feeling was something else! Yuliya said that she would do her best and that she is happy that she could help me. I asked her why she was doing surrogacy, and she said in addition of helping others, that she wanted to help out her family, as they were struggling. She told me about her five year-old son Atum, whom she loves to death, and I asked her how old she was, as she looked so young – and she told me she is the ripe age of 20 years-old! I was blown away – I couldn’t believe it! I asked her if she wanted to be part of the future child/ren’s life if things went well, and she said she would love it, which was great, because I had hoped for a surrogate who wouldn’t want to be too detached about the whole process. After chatting a bit more, we sat our goodbyes and I wished her luck on the embryo transfer – which would be putting back our three best blastocysts. At this point, we still hadn’t received an embryo grading report, but figured that it would be in their best interest to put in the best three. So our official two week wait has started, and we should find out around August 5ish whether we are pregnant!
Not soon after, K texted that he was here and I joined him to retell the latest happenings. He was sorry to miss our surrogate, but at the same time, I think he would be more comfortable meeting her once the first trimester is over, which I can understand. I told him that I was thinking that since her uterus has 17 years on mine, that it should be a significant advantage, but wondered if her small frame would be able to carry multiples, as we’re really hoping for boy/girl twins! When Anna joined us a bit later before seeing our doctor for my final checkup, I asked her this, and she confidently reassured me that all would be well, as someone of similar stature had just given birth to twins the night before! She was tiny everywhere, but all belly, Anna shared, and so we felt at peace. Anna also told me that Yuliya had given her contact info to her, so I could send her anything at any time, and she would translate it for me and send it to Yuliya. She sweetly also told me to never give up – that although I am 37 going on 67, that they actually had a 70 year-old woman who just had their embryo transfer done with the surrogate last week. I was like, EXCUSE ME!? So you mean that when the baby is in his twenties, she will be in his 90’s? She nodded her head as K and I stared at each other in disbelief. Anna continued that this woman had a child 5 years ago, but wanted another one, so just went for it. Can you believe that!? So apparently, it’s never too late to hope.
One last look at the ultrasound showed that my swelling had receded significantly, and I was feeling a lot better, so we got the okay to head back to the hotel. I was overjoyed! I had missed it while I was gone for those 3 days, and it was good to be back. We are leaving next Tuesday, so we decided to just relax that last few days and have fun.
This post is not meant to be hurtful in any way, but I feel it is so important to educate those who love their friends but don’t know what to say during their difficult times getting pregnant. My personal goal has always been to never become the bitter friend who doesn’t attend your baby shower or is unhappy when you announce your pregnancy, and in this aspect, it’s been a good run so far. In fact, I tend to go the other route where I get very excited and ask a ton of questions as if I were literally having the baby myself – pretty much doing the whole living vicariously through your friends thing. However, if you do happen to have a friend who feels this way, please be gentle with her and allow her to have her feels. Most likely, she has been given every piece of unsolicited advice under the sun from friends and family, and even a few strangers sprinkled in between, all who have good intentions but no clue how much some of those suggestions sting.
I can only speak for myself, and so I will share just how infertility has affected me. My usual method to attacking any obstacle in life is to research the hell out of it, make plans A – Z, and then execute them one by one. And believe me, we’ve done it all. And that is precisely where the struggle lies – that you feel helpless and unable to do anything to improve your outcome. As much as modern day medicine has made headway through the use of IVF, there are just as many matters that still remain murky and unexplained. Having spent the majority of my thirties trying to figure this out, has frustrated me beyond words. So I hang onto any little thing I can do, like trying to lose weight in between cycles and continuously researching for studies I can participate in to help further science. But do I handle not being able to affect anything very well? Not really, especially because in the past, I was more on the side of not doing something about an issue, out of pure hatred towards myself mixed with low self-esteem. It was only in my mid-twenties when I realized that I am capable to do most things through hard work and the grace of God, and my life turned around for the better in various ways. I attempted to try to do things that I was afraid to fail at, and I certainly did fail at some things, like becoming a therapist, which was a dream of mine – but I believe I still fulfill this desire in different informal ways to great satisfaction, so I don’t feel like I am missing out.
But I’m veering here, so back to fertility – it has been one of the most difficult things that I’ve gone through because no amount of blood, sweat, and tears made a difference. Not only that, I was constantly told by very well-meaning friends that my efforts to lose weight were in vain, that I just needed to go on a long vacation, that I should just relax and not think about it, because that’s when the magic happens. It would hurt me to hear these things, especially since I had repeatedly explained my situation of not ovulating like normal folks, and that simply relaxing wouldn’t make an ounce of difference – but it seemed to fall on deaf ears and we continued to have the same conversations. I understood that it worked for them, but it will not necessarily work for me. And although I adore my friends, I started to pull away and see less of them, simply to avoid these conversations that started to feel like motherly admonishment for not doing the pregnancy thing the right way. After around our third year of struggling, it was not uncommon for K to attend social events by himself because I had either just failed a cycle or miscarried, and didn’t have the energy to be my usual-go-lucky self, which I would then feel guilty about at times later, that I wasn’t being a solid friend despite my own troubles. In addition, I also have friends who are single and wanting children, and I felt it disrespectful to talk about this topic when they were hurting in their own way. I know that I have definitely been guilty of saying the wrong things to friends who were struggling with fertility in the past, simply because I had no idea of how it felt, so I am not on a soapbox here. In fact, I think about those times and wish I could take those things back and regret saying such things very much.
Again, I don’t have all the right things to say, but I do believe in my case, all I wanted was someone who would listen earnestly, give me a hug, and love me, instead of offering me their children, or telling me that maybe I was making an idol of having children. So, in order to help shed some light into the plight of the infertile, below are the top ten things to avoid saying to someone who is struggling with infertility – and if you have some of your own, feel free to add them in the comments.
Top Ten Things To Avoid Saying To Your Friends Struggling with Fertility
1. Just stop thinking about it. My neighbor/cousin/sister/etc tried for years, and when she finally gave up, she magically got pregnant. Stop stressing about it. Go on a long vacation. Did you know stress can affect your period? Just relax and don’t worry about a thing and it’ll happen when it’s “meant to happen”.
2. From friends who have too many kids/their kids stress them out – Are you sure you really want kids!? You can have some of mine! I wish I could still go out drinking and have a night out on the town. Or you could adopt. It only takes an indefinite amount of years and costs around 30 – 60k.
3. Have you tried acupuncture (which I have)? My neighbor/cousin/sister/etc got pregnant right after 3 sessions! Unfortunately, recent studies suggest that it doesn’t work for PCOS folks like myself, so that was a ton of money down the drain.
4. Just stop all of your fertility treatments – it’s not God’s/the universe’s way. All those drugs are unsafe and not proven to work. Enjoy your money and live a lavish life!
5. Or instead, try this concoction that has ground up deer antlers and dried bone marrow, that’ll spruce your ovaries right up.
6. Maybe it’s because you should lose 40lbs – the number one solution of Korean doctors. They don’t seem to understand that those 40lbs were gained through the fertility treatments.
7. Maybe this is God’s/the universe’s way of saying you wouldn’t be good parents/kids would be unhealthy. Would that be really what you want? Wouldn’t push this if I were you!
8. From friends who are single and getting older – at least you can try to have kids. I don’t even have a partner to procreate with, therefore, my problem trumps yours. Having a child is a privileged lifestyle choice.
9. With the world becoming what it is everyday, you’re probably sparing yourself some major grief by not having kids.
10. Have you tried having sex upside down/when the full moon is out/when your astrological sign bids you good fortune?
If you’re like me, you’re cringing when you go through the list, but each of these has happened to me numerous times, and I’m sure there are many other women who have endured much worse. I am thankful that I have a supportive family on both sides and that there never had been any pressure, but the shame that I place upon myself is a heavy enough yoke. So I hope that if you have a friend that is struggling right now, that you’ll give her a listening ear and love on her dearly.
It’s been a bit since I’ve last posted, and unfortunately, the reason for this is because I was actually under house arre – ahem, was being hospitalized at the Biotexcom clinic for about three days! After extraction day on Tuesday, I was back at the hotel, chatting it up and talking to my husband about a variety things, including ranting about how Ukrainian pain meds were absolutely worthless. The days following, though, told a different story – they were actually REALLY good, because I was having all of these text conversations with different people, and I wasn’t even aware that I wasn’t making much sense! I went through my phone and Macbook to see what the damage was, and thankfully, I hadn’t said anything offensive or talked to someone outside of my norm. But it was hilarious that I had been complaining to K about XYZ, and the actual opposite had been true! Our UK friends even went out to get me some additional pain meds because apparently I’d been moaning about it, in addition to buying me an orchid (YAY – I LOVE THEM), and my friend even brought me flowers which were beautiful!
We would have loved to stay at the hotel and enjoy the next week or so as a true vacation that was free from anything to do with a baby. But as usual, the good ole PCOS monster reared his ugly head, and like clockwork, on day two after extraction day, I was feeling unbelievably terrible. My stomach, especially the upper part, was swollen so badly that I looked like I was 6 months pregnant. This has happened to me twice before during my treatments, so nothing new – but I do believe I was pretty bad off at this point, with sleeping all the time, refusing to eat (could this be possible!?), and being in a lot of pain. We both had hoped that the swelling would decline, thinking that using the Lupron trigger would have helped shut down some of the hormones, but as time passed, I was progressively getting worse, and soon I was back at the clinic being examined by our doctor. After taking one look at my ultrasound, she declared that I would have to stay at the clinic for the next three days to get proper treatment so my swelling would go down. Good thing about this was that there wasn’t any extra fluid that needed to be drained, which can happen at times, but that just meant that my ovaries were THAT angry, and about the size of grapefruits. So in went my blood spigot, and my next three days were spent sleeping in a cot below, while getting all sorts of IV’s, intramuscular shots, and suppositories!
Because I went back in to the clinic on Thursday, I was told that I wouldn’t be able to leave until Saturday, which I was bummed about at first. I had dreamed of being a lazy worm with K at the pool eating ice cream and working on my tan, but instead, I was under the watchful eyes of the nurses 24/7, which is actually a great and wonderful thing, as they check up on you all the time and ask if you’re okay. But the stress of being there just amped up my insomnia, and I was up at all hours of the night, eyes bleary from watching an endless stream of Netflix in order to entertain myself.
For food, since they usually don’t serve any at the clinic, they worked out a plan so that a driver would bring me a packaged meal from the hotel – and it was stinking delicious, so I looked forward to this for sure. Although I usually try to avoid heavy starches and carbs, there was one day where I had potatoes something or the other for breakfast, lunch, and dinner – and so I said to heck with it, and I enjoyed every morsel of potato goodness! Mashed potatoes, crispy sliced potatoes, and potatoes au gratin – I was in potato heaven. There’s nothing that goes better with the main entree of feeling sorry for yourself as a nice steaming helping of potatoes, that you were “forced” to eat, since that’s what was given to you. I wondered if at the end of it all, I would be able to tell if that swelling was due to OHSS or potatoes, but it was worth every bite, I’m telling you!
Indeed, as with the silver potato lining that came with the OHSS, there was also another HUGE benefit to being at the hospital that Saturday as well – because my surrogate would be there this morning, getting ready for our embryo transfer! I was told that since I would already be there, that I would get to meet her and talk with her. This got me BEYOND excited – because this whole spiel was finally starting to become reality! My next post will be all about our meeting and what details I could get – so stay tuned :)!