You are currently browsing the monthly archive for June 2010.

By Robin von Halle

Surrogates are unusual women who selflessly carry a child to term for someone who cannot otherwise do so. They endure psychological counseling, fertility treatments, pregnancy cravings, swollen feet and more, all with a smile on their face. The end prize: happy families that they help create.

What these surrogates don’t have much of is a network just for them.  A place to go when the hormones are raging, to question other surrogates about the legal process or just to express how they’re feeling after the baby is born.

Alternative Reproductive Resources has created and is sponsoring an option for this community. “The Surrogacy Spotlight” is a Facebook community for current surrogates, women thinking of becoming surrogates, and surrogacy experts. To join, go to: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Surrogacy-Spotlight/133621049988224.

We know there are plenty of great surrogacy forums online already, but many of them seem to be a location where intended parents go to solicit them. The Surrogacy Spotlight is just the opposite.

It’s a place to meet other surrogates going through the same experience. It also gives women thinking about becoming a surrogate a chance to ask questions to see if it’s right for them. It’s a place to express their, joys, fears, frustrations, pregnancies, births and more.

If you are, have been or are thinking about becoming a surrogate, please join The Surrogacy Spotlight as a fan, and we hope you’ll recommend it to others in your network who might be interested. (http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Surrogacy-Spotlight/133621049988224).

In addition to welcoming your comments and observations, we’ll have two special features. Each month, we’ll have a Surrogate of the Month and a different surrogacy expert.

Starting Tuesday, July 6, our Surrogate of the Month will be Jodi, who recently gave birth to twins for two wonderful intended fathers. She will share her surrogacy journey and take questions from you throughout the month.

Our expert will be Mary Ellen McLaughlin, an ARR partner and former nurse who works with surrogates. She’ll discuss the psychological and medical aspects of the experience. Future experts will include attorneys, psychologists, physicians and more.

We have been working in the fertility field for more than 15 years, and understand that having an outlet to help get you though the process is therapeutic. We trust The Surrogacy Spotlight will do just that, and welcome your involvement to ensure it happens.

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by Mary Ellen McLaughlin

Fox’s wildly popular “Glee” tackles many controversial topics, most recently, surrogacy. One of the main characters, Rachel Berry, is an aspiring Broadway star and the daughter of two gay men. Her birth was made possible via a surrogate named Shelby Corcoran. The storyline is that Shelby was not just the surrogate but also the egg donor for Rachel’s gay parents, making Rachel her biological daughter. Sixteen years after giving birth to Rachel, Shelby regrets the contractual agreement that prevents her from meeting or speaking to her daughter. Meanwhile, Rachel has been longing to find and meet her biological mother as well.

While this complicated tale makes for great TV, it is far from the reality of a typical gestational surrogacy journey. Gestational surrogates are not biologically related to the child they carry.

Shelby’s surrogacy would be considered a traditional surrogacy, where the surrogate uses her own egg and artificial insemination to become pregnant. However, as in vitro fertilization has become a standard in fertility treatment, so has gestational surrogacy.

Gestational surrogacy ensures that the surrogate is not related to the child through the use of unrelated egg and sperm, either from the intended parents or other donors. If a traditional surrogacy is used and the surrogate is biologically related to the child, she has legal parental rights if she changes her mind about surrogacy.

Stephanie Eckard was a traditional surrogate in Florida, where her verbal surrogacy agreement with the Lamitina family was viewed as an adoption, where Stephanie could decide to keep the baby until 48 hours after the birth. She changed her mind about the surrogacy a few months into her pregnancy, and the Lamitinas had no claim to the child they’d asked Stephanie to carry for them.

ASRM guidelines for surrogacy also state that surrogates should have already given birth to a child. Shelby doesn’t seem to have any other children on the show, making her a highly unlikely candidate for surrogacy in real life.

Another discrepancy between the “Glee” take on surrogacy and real surrogacies is Shelby’s motivation for becoming a surrogate. A desperate young Shelby, who needed money to fund her dream of becoming a Broadway star, decided the pay for nine months of pregnancy was too good to pass up. In reality, most women who become surrogates don’t do it for the money. They are already mothers of their own children, have stable family support systems, and often know someone who had problems with infertility. They are typically motivated by the idea of helping someone realize their dream of becoming a parent, or simply enjoy pregnancy and don’t mind carrying an unrelated child for another parent.

The moral of the story is, of course, that you can’t always believe what you see on TV. Surrogates are far more often mothers who want to help others create a family than aspiring Broadway singers looking for cash.

by Carin

Now, I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. When people look sadly at me because I can’t have kids of my own, I still tell them how lucky I am. I have a wonderful husband, an incredibly supportive family, wonderful friends and, despite the surgeries, I am in excellent health. Even with the infertility stuff, I was grateful to have insurance to cover most of what was needed. I also truly believe that fate waited until I was ready to give us the greatest gift. One week after my surgery I got a call from the agency. They had found us another surrogate. This one was in Illinois and lived in the south suburbs of Chicago. She was promised to another family who had backed out due to financial reasons. The agency had already set up a meeting for Friday (we got the call on Wednesday) and didn’t want to have to change it. Of course I still couldn’t drive and my husband had already taken a lot of time off work. I frantically called my husband and told him that he needed to take another day off because this could be the one. Luckily, he had a very understanding boss who let him go for the afternoon.

Meeting this woman and her husband were like a dream come true. There I was, shuffling along, one week after another “C-section,” clutching my little pillow to my abdomen, sitting in a conference room listening to a woman tell me that she may be willing to carry my child. After the meeting, we were each told to go home, talk it over and to let the agency know within 48 hours if we accepted each other. We didn’t even make it home before we called the agency and told them an exuberant YES! The other couple waited until the next day but they were as impressed with us as we were with them.

After a bunch of legal mumbo jumbo that is very important but not necessary to rehash here, we were ready to start her on the stimulation drugs. In February 2009, two embryos were transferred into our surrogate. Two weeks later, almost exactly five years from the date of my first pregnancy test, we got the news that it had worked. She was pregnant. Of course she was ecstatic (as we were five years ago) but we knew better now. So much can go wrong. We refused to get excited until after the first ultrasound. We saw the heartbeat but I still couldn’t bring myself to breathe. Days turned into weeks and weeks into months. At the end of the first trimester I was able to breathe a little bit. We told our families and kept waiting anxiously for each new appointment. I don’t think I truly felt comfortable telling people until halfway through the second trimester. I refused to allow myself to hope and believe that this could actually be happening. To her credit, she put up with my craziness, my skepticism and was a constant source of comfort and support. A deep and lifelong friendship had been forged. We were truly blessed to have found each other, as fate had intended.

Even now, with our four-month-old blessing, it is hard for me to believe that I am actually a mom. I had been told that as soon as I hold the baby in my arms, I would forget all the troubles that came before him. On the one hand, that was true. On the other hand, I never want to forget. That struggle has made me who I am today. I don’t mean a crazy hormone-deprived person who suffers hot flashes (but never when I am actually cold enough to need them). My infertility journey has taught me that I could handle much more than I thought I could. I was stronger than I thought I was. It made my relationships better and more open. Like I said, everything happens for a reason. This little boy will be loved and cherished always, as will the woman who gave up her eggs to allow him to exist, and the woman who selflessly carried him and delivered him safely and securely into his mother’s arms.

by Carin

I was devastated but decided that it was time to be practical. We sat down with the doctor to discuss options. Option 1: try another cycle with my body. Option 2: find a surrogate to implant the donor eggs into. Option 3: adopt. I decided option 1 was out. I was terrified of another miscarriage. I didn’t know if I could handle it emotionally. Adoption was an option but there was the matter of the six remaining embryos. We decided to try the surrogacy route.

We contacted the same agency that had found us the egg donor and they went to work looking for a surrogate. We were told that it was sometimes difficult to find a surrogate in our home state of Illinois, so they also looked at all the bordering states. Meanwhile, yet another cyst had been slowly growing on what remained of my right ovary. By mid-summer 2008, it had reached eight centimeters and needed to come out. The agency called us in August telling us they had found a surrogate for us in Nashville. We hemmed and hawed and finally decided that it was too far. I wouldn’t be able to make it to all the appointments; if she delivered in Nashville there was the chance of having to go through the adoption process to take the baby out of state. And if she delivered in Illinois then we would need to put her up in a four-star hotel for up to a week before the delivery. We grudgingly let her go hoping that something else would come up.

Then there was the matter of this growing cyst. I had decided after the last surgery that if they needed to go in again, they might as well just take the rest of the ovary out. It wasn’t like it was helping me at all. Whatever eggs may have been left were worthless and I didn’t want to have to deal with a fifth surgery. My husband joked that we should get a punch card saying that if you have four surgeries you get the fifth one free. After speaking with my gynecologist, RE and GYN/Oncologist, it was decided they would do a sub-cervical hysterectomy. They would remove the right ovary and tube, as well as the uterus but would leave in the cervix. The surgery would put me in surgical menopause at age 36. My doctor told me that I would not need hormone replacement treatment unless the menopause symptoms were unbearable. Ironically, the replacement hormone they would put me on – birth control pills!  Someone out there has a warped sense of humor.

On September 15, 2008, four years and seven months after deciding it was time to have children, my doctors removed my last chance of ever getting pregnant. The dream was over. It’s funny, because I didn’t feel sad.  I didn’t feel empty.  The only thought on my mind was finding a surrogate who could help us start a family. Was she out there? If she was, then where the heck was she? I needed to find a surrogate…NOW.

egg donation

By Carin

In January 2007, I started the process for IVF. For those of you who have not yet gone through it, prepare yourself for the emotional roller coaster of all time. I learned how to do the injections and my husband enjoyed getting his revenge for my hormone-induced craziness by jabbing me in the butt with the gigantic progesterone needle. I think that was the highlight of his day! I did everything right but only was able to generate a few follicles. They converted my IVF attempt to an IUI. Again, no luck. Undaunted, we tried again with a higher dose of stimulation drugs. This time I had four nice-sized follicles so they went ahead with the retrieval. When I came to from the anesthesia, I was told that of the four follicles, only one produced an egg and that egg failed to fertilize. My body had failed again.

After discussing with my doctor, it was finally decided that we would switch to an anonymous egg donor. Keep in mind that my husband and I discussed and argued this thought over and over and over again. He wanted to do adoption so we would be guaranteed a child. I wasn’t ready to give up on pregnancy. So he gave in and we agreed to try egg donation first. We signed up with a wonderful agency that found us a donor right away. The agency described her as an “über-donor” because in previous donations she had produced two sets of twins. Look no further, this was the one for me!

We got a lawyer and signed all the paperwork for the donor contract and then she started her stimulation. Since she was young and had healthy eggs, she responded great to stimulation. They retrieved a whopping 20 eggs. Of those, 19 fertilized. That’s 95 percent for you math people out there! Of those 19, 10 were viable embryos. We were set. In October 2007 I went in for a transfer. They put in two embryos and told me to go home and rest to allow them to settle in to their new home. After an agonizing two weeks I went in for the pregnancy test. Negative. They transferred another two in February 2008.  Success! However, the nurse cautioned that the numbers were really high which could mean twins or a possible ectopic pregnancy. I waited as the numbers went up, then leveled off. The pregnancy was not viable. The numbers started dropping. My body had failed again. Not even with perfect embryos could my body handle a pregnancy. How many more times do I have to go through this?

Visit our Web site at www.arr1.com.

About Us

Conception Connections is a blog about alternative paths to family creation. It is maintained by Alternative Reproductive Resources. Contributors include intended parents, egg donors and gestational surrogates in addition to ARR staff. Our goal is to facilitate conversations about trends, issues, current events, technology and personal stories surrounding infertility, egg donation and gestational surrogacy. If you'd like to contribute, please e-mail shodge@hodgemediastrategies.com. We also welcome your comments and suggestions. Note: Comments are moderated and posted on approval.

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