Incompetence. Utter Incompetence.

— Early January 2014 —

2014 is going to our year.  I just know it.

 

After being approved by everyone and jumping every possible hoop, Jen/we are ready to go.  We now have to set up our meeting to sign the consents at the clinic.  (Again, inside my head I scream- this is really happening!)

 

This appointment requires all three of us to be there and go through all of the legal paper work etc with the clinic.  The clinic has now received our surrogacy contract from our lawyers, all of Jen’s blood tests back, her test results back, and our pysch evaluation/approval.  I called and booked us in for our appointment mid-January- the soonest they could get us in.  It has also been one month from the time the clinic got my anesthesia information from the hospital so they would have a plan in place for my egg retrieval. Fabulous.

 

This appointment didn’t come without a big old financial price tag.  One would think signing some forms wouldn’t break the bank.  Well… they’d be wrong.  For this appointment, we had to pay close to $2000.

 

The day after booking the appointment I get a call from the IVF nurse.  She is needing to change the appointment as whomever booked it didn’t book it with the right ppl.  Okay.  Frustrating as arranging these appointments so three people, with three different jobs, could all be there wasn’t easy.  But we would make it work.  She started listing off days and we finally found one that we could arrange to make work.

 

She then notes that she wants to go through the check list to ensure we have everything ready.  She rambles through all of our appointments and documents that she has received.  She then stops at Jen’s basic blood work.  They haven’t received it.  Ok… well she did it over 2 months ago.  I know cause I was on the phone with her when she was there.  The IVF nurse starts saying how we can’t move forward until we have everything.

 

Yes, we get it.  But we did the blood work.  Can she check again?  Nope.  Not there.  She then says if we don’t get it before the appointment we would, again, need to reschedule.  The next appointment however was another 3 weeks after the first one.  Well in Feburary.

 

You HAVE to be kidding me.  Ok, I call Jen all frantic and she then runs across the world to get her new blood requisition and get it done that day so we would have it all back.  It’s not like we have to work or anything… :S  We make it work.  She even texts me a pic of the needle in her arm for ‘proof’ so the clinic doesn’t say it’s our fault!  Again, Jen is my hero.

 

It’s weird being somewhat helpless.  Being able to run around and get everything sorted out yourself is one thing, but asking someone else to drop everything and run is another.  Especially after she is already agreeing to do the most selfless act in the world.

 

I call the IVF nurse back and say she did the blood work, it should be back in time, and we should be ready to go for the appointment.  Just before I hang up, I said that I’m looking forward to this cycle as having full anesthesia during the egg retrieval is going to make all the difference! 🙂

 

… she pauses….  uhhhhhh…. right.  We did get that back from the anesthesia clinic, she says.  Then notes that she is going to put that on the agenda for this Friday’s RE check in with the clinic.  WHAT?  It had been a month since they got the report and they haven’t done anything with it?

 

Perhaps the clinic missed the point where we wanted to get pregnant.  And we had already been trying for over 2 years now… Plus our schedule was now based on my and Jen’s schedule (aka our bodies!) so not having the right info on one day could make the difference between a cycle in February or March.

 

So frustrating…. Obviously upset I asked her if that was going to hold up this cycle.  She said that she didn’t know and would have the RE’s look at it this week.

 

Wonderful.

 

I get I’m impatient and excited to get started, but waiting around for the clinic to do their job wasn’t in my waiting plan.  Pissed, I call Dan and Jen to vent about their incompetence.  They both being me back sane-ish and tell me it will all work out.  Yes, this was alllllll going to work out.

 

 

….. Monday, after the above noted ‘Friday RE Meeting’, and 5 weeks after the clinic received my report …..

 

I called the clinic and asked to speak with the IVF nurse.  After the amount of money we have spent at this clinic, I’m anxious for answers re: the new plan for my egg retrieval.

 

She answers and assures me that the RE’s discussed my situation at their Friday meeting.  It was decided that another RE, one who’s cousin was an anesthetist, was going to take the lead on this one and find out what we could do.

 

Me:  Okay, did she have a projected time line for this?

Her:  I don’t know. It is now up to the other RE.  She is going to handle it.

Me: Okay, but did she think we could be on track for a February cycle start date?

Her: She didn’t know.  We would have to wait and see what this RE would come up with.

Me: I’m just frustrated now that you’ve had this info for over a month and nothing has been done.

Her:  We are working on it.  That’s all I can tell you.

 

Wonderful.  Just wonderful.

 

 

….. Monday, the following week after the above conversation, and 6 weeks after the clinic received the report ….

 

Another call to the IVF nurse.  I hadn’t heard from her at all with any updates so I called and left a message to see if there was anything I could do?  Any calls I could make?

 

She called back after a couple hours and said that there was no update.  Last she heard, the RE was going to talk to her cousin…

 

Me: Ok, did she have a time line?  Or even a meeting date with him?

Her: She didn’t know.

Me: Ok, is there a way to find out a projected time line?

Her: She didn’t know.

 

Fabulous.

 

Next week is our consent appointment and hopefully, meeting with our RE, we would get answers.

Bah. Humbug.

-Late Fall 2013-

The hurry up and wait mantra that is my life needs to take a hike. Like seriously, have we not waited enough?

After getting the official OK from the clinic on pysch, we had got the gold stars on several hurdles.  But several remained.  Each of which took, you guessed it, more time.  Everything was going fabulously with the testing and Jen, but I’m not exactly a patient person…

The To Do list was getting shorter though.  Jen had to go and get the never-ending panel of every blood test known to man done  to ensure everything was A-ok.  I needed to get an appointment for a consult by an Anesthetist due to the fact that the drugs for the conscious sedation for the last egg retrieval didn’t touch me.  If this plan for a gestational carrier worked out, I would need to do another round of IVF to harvest more eggs, inseminate them with Dan’s sperm, then put them into Jen.  That meant another egg retrieval for me.  And if there was one thing that I knew, it was that there was no way I could possibly endure another retrieval with no drugs.

We got the requisitions for Jen’s  blood, and I had a consult sent over to McMaster Hospital.  Now we waited for them to call me back.

In the meantime, it appeared that my entire newsfeed on Facebook decided to get pregnant.  Ultrasound pictures, posts about baby’s kicking, and baby showers were pure torture.  While I am sane enough to know that the chance that those people got pregnant and are posting those pictures and status’ solely to make me want to jump out a window was low, it didn’t matter.  I would come home from work and have a meltdown almost every day as someone new was calling us or posting about their good news.  The ones that really got to me were the ones who got pregnant when we started trying over 2 years ago, had their baby, and were now pregnant with their next one.  Yay for them (insert irrationally grumpy sarcasm here).

I desperately needed a break.  The problem, however, was that we had now spent over $60,000 on fertility treatments (with nothing but mental scarring to show for it) and we didn’t have a penny to spend on a ‘vacation’.  My family has a cottage in Muskoka, so Dan and I talked about trying to just get away there to relax.  The secondary problem was that Dan had just opened Pita Pit in the summer and couldn’t exactly just take off to the cottage for any number of days.  Cue another breakdown.

My parents, knowing a break was exactly what we needed, suggested an offer I couldn’t refuse.  My Mom goes to Barbados for work, and would be heading down there for a week the last week in November.  If I could get it off work and pay for my flight, I could bunk with her in her room, and she would cover the cost of my meals.  She would be working most the time, but at least I could relax beachside.  Really??  This was amazing!  Mom and I agreed this would be my baby-free vacation- a week where I could relax and just forget about everything else!

Dan and I figured out how to pay for the flight knowing how important and desperate I was for a trip.  I sent an email to my manager at work and noted that it was last minute, but was there any chance it would work?  He approved it!  I packed everything up and off I went.  The weather was gorgeous and the resort we stayed at was perfect.  Dan was at home working- and frankly a vacation without your husband isn’t wonderful- but this was still a week away from anything baby.

Day 2 of 8 my Mom hands me her phone while on the beach.  Someone from work was calling her about something, but wanted to say hi to me.  Sure- it turned out to be a good friend and I happily said hi!  He continued to talk and said that he wanted to share some news- he and his wife were pregnant.  He wanted to let me know before he told everyone at work so I wouldn’t find out through the grapevine.  So he called me in Barbados to tell me.  Thoughtful…. except I was supposed to be away from this all.  Plus, he already had 3 kids- come on!  I swallowed hard and congratulated him.  I was genuinely happy…. but devastated for me.  That was all it took.  I left the beach in tears and went back to my room to try to relax and enjoy the weather.  It worked, sort of.

By the next day I was calmed down again and ready to enjoy my vacation!  I unpacked several books and started some hardcore reading on the beach.  After dinner, I checked my email.  Another friend wanted to let me know about their wonderful news of being pregnant personally before they posted it on Facebook.  At least she wasn’t in the room as I burst out crying while I wrote a congrats email back. Yes, they will make great parents….  Recovery needed again.

A friend of mine lives in Barbados with her boyfriend, and I couldn’t wait to see them!  They had me over for a sleepover for a couple nights and ended up driving me to the airport to go home.  It was a perfect end to my trip and I was so excited to get to catch up.  After spending the afternoon together, we went for dinner.  After dinner, my friend looked exhausted.  She looked at her bf and said that she wanted to tell me, even though it was so early, as I was there- and she didn’t just want to email me when I got home.  They were expecting.

This is where I smile and congratulate them!…. Expect instead I turned into a blubbering idiot.  I have never been so embarrassed in my life!  I tried so hard not to cry.  So hard.  Instead I ended up crying on their couch after they told me the most exciting news of their lives.  When did I turn into this terrible of a person?  How could I do this to such great friends?  I apologized profusely and excused myself until I could at least fake pull myself back together.  When did I turn into such a pathetic, selfish, and terrible person?

I have never. ever. ever. been so embarrassed at my actions.  I tried so hard for the next day or so to make it up to them.  I just couldn’t control myself.  They forgave me and said they understood… but still.  Wow.  I’m an ass.

I flew home and had to tell Dan all about my depressed self and how 8 days of vacation turned into somehow 3 baby announcements.  We hugged and decided to focus on all of the great news we had moving forward with Jen.  This was going to work for us.

The next night we had my cousin and my parents over for dinner.  After dinner my cousin seemed to be dragging her feet in leaving until my parents left.  I got a pit in my stomach as I just knew.  Another one…. prepare myself for the incoming news. My parents left and she sat down on our couch to let us know her and her husband’s great news.  She was just 12 weeks and planned on telling the rest of the extended family at our family Christmas.  I held myself together until she backed out of our driveway and then I just collapsed.  She was the last person in the world we expected this news from.  Dan carried what was left of me up the stairs and got me into bed.  Anti-anxiety pills later, I could finally put words together.

But I LOVE Christmas.  LOVE it.  Obsessed with it really.  And now our family Christmas would be focused on baby talk.  I know, I sounds completely and utterly selfishly crazy.  But mentally, I didn’t think I could do it.  I just couldn’t go.  Maybe I’d get ‘sick’… I don’t know.  But with 2 weeks left until the party, I couldn’t do it and embarrass myself all over again a la Barbados. Dan said to wait it out, and we could talk about it another day.  With tears in both of our eyes, Dan held me until I feel asleep.

I ended up going off sick from work as I just could not seem to pull myself together.  All I could see each time I left my home was happy families, pregnant couples, and kids playing in the snow.  My solution was to stay in bed all day and drown my sorrows in my pillow.  The worst part was that I knew that everything regarding surrogacy was actually going well for us.  Yet I couldn’t seem to focus on the positives… just the negatives.

xmas

 

This Christmas was going to be a write off.  One to forget about and pretend it didn’t happen.

My obsession for Christmas had very quickly turned into social anxiety and a constant stream of negative thoughts.  No, I’m not happy so hurry up and get this holiday over with.

Us + Jen + the Shrink

Psych appointments.  Fun.

So in order for the clinic to move forward with the approval of surrogacy, they apparently want to make sure that both we, the intended parents, and Jen, the carrier, are sane.  Fair enough I guess.  But asking your best friend to head into the psychologist to be evaluated is not a normal friend request.

Again, Jen took it in stride.  Dan and I were up first.  This was the same doc that we had seen several times in helping us to deal with everything that was going on.  He was a nice guy that had provided us support and help when we were in need of it previously… and we felt very comfortable with him.  We walked into the appointment hand in hand and sat down.

This appointment felt different.  It felt like we had to say the right things so that we would ‘pass’.  I wasn’t sure what a right thing to say was.  I had already sat in this chair and spilled my heart out.  He knew about my history with depression.  He knew about our struggles.  He knew about my previous break downs after bad news after bad news.

Wait- did that make us not ‘pass-able’?

We sat down.  I suddenly started to get nervous. He smiled and told us to relax.  And the next words out of his mouth were magic to my ears.  He said, “Adele, we have had the opportunity to discuss your upbringing, your struggles, and feelings throughout the other sessions, so I’m really just hoping to talk about Dan today”.  HA!  Score!

Plus, hell, he is the sane one out of both of us!  He is my rock.  The one who always has something funny to say to make me laugh or smile.  The only who always sees the bright side.  Plus, Dan talking about his feelings was a rare opportunity… I felt like I just scored tickets to a good movie.  I say back and my heart rate slowed back to normal.

Dan lost his Father in a tragic car accident when he was 5.  He has very few memories of him… and mostly fills in the blanks with stories and pictures from others.  The doc asked him about how it was growing up without a father and how that played out.  He then brought up his Mom…  Dan’s Mom passed in 2008 of colon cancer.

While it wasn’t easy for him to talk about, he explained in detail about his Mom’s passing and how is affected the family.  He spoke about his closeness to his older sister and the important role she now plays in our lives.

Listening to him talk about his life made me really sit back and think…  Dan has not had an easy go at life this far, yet his outlook remained so bright.  He is truly an incredible guy.  Not once does he play the ‘woe is me’ card, instead, he has ensured that his life experiences assisted to build him into the man he is today.  (a pretty awesome man, I would add!)

The appointment was supposed to be an hour.  After about half an hour, he asked about he felt about my best friend carrying our child.  He laughed and talked about his initial reaction and how we had come together to be genuinely excited about this new, and unique, opportunity.  We were both 100% full steam ahead.

After asking a couple ‘what if’s’ he seemed happy and sent us on our way.  I felt like stopping while walking out of his office and asking- wait, did we pass?  The answer, I knew, was that this was just step 1.wait

Step 2 was Jen’s appointment.  I called her as soon as she got home from her appointment (a week after ours).  She laughed and said he asked the same basic questions surrounding her life, her upbringing, her motivation for volunteering, how she felt this would affect her and her children, and what her fears were.

She said he visit went very well and she was out of there in about 40 minutes.  I took this to mean that this was good news.  If he didn’t think she was sane enough for this, chances are he wouldn’t have sent her packing with a smile and a handshake after 40 minutes.

Well today was a great day.  My best friend was indeed sane, and she wasn’t yet scared away from doing this!

Step 3: The next appointment was going to be the interesting one.  The final ‘pass’ was an appointment scheduled with the three of us to discuss the plan and moving forward.  This was the final session.  The three of us met in the waiting room at the clinic and were chatting and joking around.  No one in the waiting room knew quite what to do.  First off, people we talking- unheard of in a fertility clinic waiting room. Second, we actually sounded happy- again pretty damn odd.  And third, why was there THREE of us?  We got stared at and lots of questioning looks.

The doc called us in and onward we trod into his office.  Three chairs were set up in a nice little semi circle in front of his desk.  I took the middle seat seeing as I was the binding piece to this whole arrangement.  We sat down and all smiled at him.  I think the three of us were weirdly anxious/nervous.  A psych session with my best friend and my husband wasn’t exactly the most normal thing…

We talked about our plans, about our intentions surrounding the legal aspects, and how we hoped this process would move forward.  The doc asked us a lot of hard questions:

– How would it affect our friendship if it didn’t work?

– What would happen if she miscarried?

– Did we think that jealousy was going to be an issue during the pregnancy or afterwards?

-What we do if we disagreed about how to move forward?

Jen and I promptly answered all the questions.  There was no doubt, we were on the same page about everything.  We both answered in unison about what would happen if she miscarried- we both looked at each other and said how terrible we would feel for each other.  My concern was Jen feeling like she failed and holding that weight on her shoulders.  Her first concern was to ensure Dan and I would make it.

Would this effect our friendship?  Well, we couldn’t really get any closer.  And our first priorities were each others feelings.

The doc nodded at all of our answers, then after about half an hour, he chuckled and asked how Dan really felt about this all.  Dan looked at Jen and I and made some joke about getting a word in edgewise… He said he couldn’t be more supportive and happy about moving forward.  We knew we couldn’t be doing this process with anyone else other than Jen- and he said this.

With a nod, and a pen stroke, the doc said he thought we had covered everything and offered his services for us on our journey.  There was about 10 seconds of silence in which I blurted out- so does that mean we pass?  He shook he head and said he wasn’t giving us a pass or fail grade.  He felt like we had had the discussions we needed to have.  We had the right attitude, and we were being realistic with our plans.  So yes, he was giving us his blessing.

Dan got the bill (yes we have to pay for everything….!) and paid him while Jen and I walked out and high fived in the hallway.

This hurdle was cleared…. just a couple more to go!

 

 

The Family Meeting

babyWell it’s official.  We are seriously thinking about surrogacy.

After our hearts stopped pounding, and we digested the ridiculous price tag attached, I felt this glimmer of hope.  Hope.  A word that I haven’t used to describe us in this situation for a very long time.  Hope that we will one day have a family of our own.

In our excitement after our appointment where we got approved, I got a little ahead of myself and actually booked Jen for a consult the follow week at the clinic.  She said she’s be interested in this… but it was technically pending a whole lot details getting sorted out first.  We called Jen and figured the best way to chat about this all was to meet and go over all of our concerns and questions.

From there a dinner date was set.  Milestones was the pick and we had about three days to try and compile all of the questions we could think of to discuss to make sure we were on the same page.  We had both done research independantly, but now it was time to sit down and actually work through how this would work.

We decided to make independent lists then go over them together at dinner.

Two days later, and one day before our dinner date, we had compiled all of the questions we could think of.  We scoured the internet for as much information and blogs to read about the process and the tough questions the clinic would be asking us.  I called Jen that night and told her our questions were done.  She laughed and said her were too…  We decided to exchange questions so that we could prepare and think about our answers before we actually met tomorrow.

It turned out about 90% of our questions and concerns were identical.  Ok good.  We are definitely on the same page.  Well, sort of.  We have the same worries, but we may not have the same answers.

I couldn’t sleep all night thinking about all of our conversations and trying to read what was really going through her mind.  I fully believed that she thought she was going to do this… but I kept waiting for the “it’s just too much” talk.  The very fact that she even offered to look into this is incredible… but the more we learned, the more complicated things got.  This was most definitely not just a simple offer.

I spent the entire day debating how tonight was going to go.  I called Dan even more than usual just to say hi and to ask him if he was nervous about tonight.  To him, this was like any other day.  To me, this was the biggest day ever!  I sometimes hate how nonchalant he can be about everything.  He just has this ‘everything will work out’ mentality.  I keep reminding him that so far, nothing has worked out.  But he still smiles and continues on.  When I don’t want to kill him for his continual positive outlook, I love him even more.

It was almost dinner and I started getting the butterflies in my stomach… I could not believe how nervous I actually was.  And more than that, I was internally freaking out that tonight was going to awkward.  Jen and I don’t do awkward.  In fact, I tell her everything- the good, the bad, and the very ugly.  But suddenly our friendship was about to be tested in the wierdest way yet and I almost felt it was a business transaction.

The three of us got a table and sat down together.  We ordered then both pulled out our lists… Jen and I expected that we would do all the talking.  But Dan, to our surprise, was right in there.  We figured, let’s do this.

We went down  our lists.  We started easy (ish).

Timing- what was she thinking? Did it matter?  Not really… she knew I didn’t want to wait another 12 years.

How many times do we try?  Three sounded like a good number. We could always change it later.

How many embryos do we transfer at once? One.  Less risky for Jen and the babies.

What doctor would we use (OBGYN)? Jen liked hers, but I want to deliver at the children’s hospital because of potential issues with a bleeding disorder.  We agree.  We’ll pick together but someone who works there.

Who would attend the appointments? We both agreed that we wanted it to be as if I was pregnant.  So if Dan would normally attend with me, then we’d both be there.

*Cue Jen nervously laughing here*… Uhhh, so I need to know.  Who will be in the delivery room- cause if Dan is, I need to start preparing for that now!  We laughed.  Yes, Dan wants to be there… if that works.  Dan pipes in- he has no plans to move from the head area.  Wonderful….!  LMAO

The questions continues with some basic stuff including life insurance, benefit plans, how expenses would work, how we’d like to pick lawyers, how the procedures would go, what medications did we think she’d be on etc.  I guess I shouldn’t have been that surprised.  We know everything about one another… and our answers were always on the same page.

I think the poor waiter got more than he bargained for if we was listening in on our conversations, but we just continued to fly through the questions and talk about all the logistics.  Insert a couple of hilarious and inappropriate jokes here and there… We were having a good time.  This was as far from awkward as could be.

We moved on to some of the harder questions.  The legality of everything.  We were well within the law doing this, but we also knew that once Jen gets pregnant, that any and all decisions about the baby were legally hers.  This brought us into difficult decisions.

Abortion- under what circumstances would we want to abort the pregnancy- Dan and I had had so many conversations about this.  All of the what if’s.  We knew that if something was wrong with the baby, it was still our baby.  We would have no intentions of ending the pregnancy.  We also knew Jen’s mentality was the same.  While this was a difficult conversation, it was an important one.  We all agreed that the only reason that we would consider termination of the pregnancy was if Jen’s life was in imminent danger.  Her health had to come first.  Ok, one hard one down… a couple to go.

Selective Termination- reducing the pregnancy if multiple babies- After the above conversation, we all knew we were on the same page.  We were only going to transfer one embryo, so the chances of multiples were very low, but we had to chat about it regardless.  Again, we agreed that the only way we would ever approach this was if Jen’s health was in imminent danger. 

Prenatal Testing- Dan and I knew that regardless of the results, we would want to go ahead and test the baby for potential issues.  Our rationale was that if we were to have a child with Down Syndrome, we would want to do the research ahead of time to learn as best as possible about our child.  Jen agreed.  But she was worried about the possible harm to the baby if we proceeded with an amniocentesis. This was something that she was not prepared to do.  To be honest, I think Dan and I, if we were in that situation, would need all the information we could get to make our decision.  But if this was her bottom line, this was not something that concerned us.  We respected this decision and agreed that under no circumstances would we proceed with an amnio. 

Ahhh… and my favourite.  Confidentiality- Who were we going to tell about all of this? I had just started writing my blog about a month before this meeting.  She knew that I was enjoying writing it and had an incredible out pouring of support from friends, family, and complete random people.  We decided that we would keep everything fairly under wraps until we actually decided that we were, for sure, going to be going ahead with this.  We decided that we wanted this pregnancy to essentially mirror exactly the same things that Dan and I would do if the baby was growing in my belly.  This would include belly pics and Facebook updates.  She was ok with this.  She was a little urked out by the idea of complete strangers knowing everything about her… so we decided to change her name on my blog.  This worked the best.  We agreed to a no-press rule.  Sounds silly, but as these things don’t happen all that often, they sometimes draw the attention of the media etc.  Nope, this was our arrangement- not something for entertainment. 

Dan was worried about what this might do to Jen and I.  We both laughed and said that was the lmarksast thing to worry about.  We’d been through some tough stuff, and we were confident that our friendship would make it through anything.  Jen wanted to talk about potential jealousy.  She had read a lot of blogs etc of woman having a hard time dealing with the other person being pregnant, not them.  I told her straight up that I hoped that wouldn’t be an issue- but at the first sign of turmoil, I’d be heading to counseling to work through everything.  We agreed.  We wanted to be as prepared as possible, but couldn’t anticipate everything.

After about two hours of laughing and joking about what we were about to get ourselves into, our dinners were finished, and so were our lists.  We had a good idea of the other persons concerns and worries… and felt like we were ok with moving one more step forward.  I told Jen about the doc appointment I booked and we made arrangements the following week to both go.

This was really happening….

 

 

Surrogacy 101

surrogacySurrogacy: my egg, Dan’s sperm, and Jen’s uterus.  Well… it’s a tad more complicated than that.

In researching surrogacy, we found that it is something that is vastly different depending on where you live.  In some places it’s completely illegal like in Italy.  In other places, it is illegal to take part in commercial surrogacy- when you actually pay the surrogate for her services- like here in Canada.  And in other places, both altruistic and commercial surrogacy is well within the law- like the USA and Israel.

So being in Canada, where commercial surrogacy is illegal, and altruistic surrogacy is ok, I was surprised to find out that dependent on your Province, different rules apply… More on that later.

However, this whole surrogacy thing is actually a lot more complicated than you could imagine.  So I thought I’d do a quick (?!)  run down on how it works for us, here in Ontario along with the costs.

 

Step 1: Be Barren. ($$$$- All the fertility costs up until now)

– check

Step 2: Find a Surrogate (Free if you find one yourself… unknown fees if you use an agency)

There are actually three main types of surrogacy in Canada.  A traditional surrogate is a person who would use their own egg, plus the intended parent’s sperm, and carry a baby to term.  The second type involves donor eggs and/or sperm with the use of the surrogate’s uterus to carry the baby to term.  The third, and most common type, is called a gestational carrier.  This is where the baby would be biologically related to the intended parents, and use a surrogate’s uterus to carry to term.  That’s us.

Now to finding a surrogate.  ha…  Well think for a moment, how many people do you have in your life that are willing to volunteer?  I would hazard a guess that the number is fairly small.  And wait a moment until you read the whole list below about what’s involved and then ask yourself again, would they still volunteer if they knew all of the below?

So in case you don’t have anyone jumping at the chance to put their life on hold, endure invasive testing and actually bare you child, well you do have options.  There are surrogacy businesses in Canada that assist in linking you to a person who would be willing to be a surrogate.  Now remember, these potential surrogates cannot be compensated for this (other than their expenses) so as you can guess, the number is quite small of people volunteering.  However, these types of amazing strangers (angels!) do exist believe it or not.

So now you have yourself a volunteer….  (Insert Hunger Games joke here about volunteering to be a tribute)

Step 3: Get Approved for Surrogacy by your Clinic (covered by OHIP)

It apparently isn’t as easy as just asking.  Because of the potential harm and risk to the surrogate, clinics in Canada aren’t jumping at signing anyone and everyone up to do surrogacy.  In fact, many clinics do not facilitate surrogacy whatsoever.

We were lucky that our clinic did.  Not something I looked into in my initial research for a clinic, but was very helpful in the end as we got to continue with the same doctors, medical team, and it was close (enough…) by.

I wrote previously about our clinic not being overly excited about approving us at first, however, we were approved at our next appointment and on we go.  Read more about that part here: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back and Hoping for the best, Preparing for the worst: The Clinic’s Final Decision

Step 4: Get your Surrogate Medically Approved ($$- Every test and ultrasound is paid out of pocket ~$2000)

A logical next step.  We need to ensure the surrogate is in good medical health and able to complete the process without any undue harm.  However, I was surprised to find out how much testing they do.

The clinic requires the a whole pile of blood work that tests for anything and everything including STIs, HIV, mineral and vitamin deficiencies etc.  Next up is the Day 3 blood work and ultrasound- tests done on the third day of the surrogate’s cycle to ensure that all the hormone levels are where they should be for Day 3.  Next is essentially a full physical including a pap smear etc.  With this appointment comes the longest and most invasive list of medical questions you could imagine.  Lastly, if anything comes up in that, then she would need to follow up with specialists for clearance prior to proceeding.

Step 5: Get your Surrogate and Yourselves Psychologically Approved ($$ – ~$600-$1000)

Yep.  Next step is for you and your partner to sit with a psychiatrist to determine if you are able to go through with this process.  It isn’t easy for anyone, but there are also huge social, moral, and legal implications.  Have we thought everything through?

Once that is passed, it’s your surrogates turn.  She gets to sit on the hot seat and have a psych doc evaluate her mental capacity to ensure she is up for the task.  One hour of answering tough questions about how, why, and what is about to happen.  If your surrogate has a partner, the partner must also be included and pass the above testing.

Once you and the surrogate have the official ok that as separate parts you are sane enough to move forward, you then have the final appointment- An hour session with all included parties to discuss how we feel about moving forward, how it will work, ensuring we understand each others needs and clarify that yes, we are sane.

Step 6: Legal ($$$$- Two laywers btw $5000 – $10,000 total)

Next up- find a surrogacy lawyer who will draft a surrogacy contract.  This is a necessary step required by the clinic prior to initiating any procedures.  This contract will clarify a bunch of the detailed information such as the maximum amounts for expenses, what the medical agreements are, how many embryos, how many tries, when would we terminate the pregnancy, when would we selectively reduce, what tests and pre-natal care is expected, who will attend appointments, who will attend the birth… etc etc etc

We draft the initial agreement with our lawyers.  The surrogate gets an independent lawyer to review the agreement with and amend as necessary.

We go back and forth until it is acceptable and protects both parties- then it is signed off.  The lawyers then confirm with the clinic that it exists and is signed off.  Giving the clinic the go ahead to move forward with any procedures.

Step 7: Get your Cycles Synced up and Review your Protocol ($$$- Admin fees NOT including medications here are about $2500)

In order to get your cycles synced up, the surrogate needs to start a birth control pill to allow the clinic to ‘control’ her cycle.  The pill is the same dosage each day and she needs to continue on it until told otherwise.  In the meantime, the intended mother (aka me) needs to get everything in order to start a new round of IVF to grow and get the eggs to fertilize.  Signing off of medical consents with the clinic happens here.

Step 8: Start synchronized cycles ($$$$- This would be a round of IVF for me and a round similar to Frozen Embryo Transfer for our surrogate PLUS medications, so for us it would be anywhere from $20,000-$35,000)

in vitroA normal process would look something like this:  Surrogate starts injections to put her cycle on hold (yep- she’s now stuck poking herself with needles too…), then incorporates estrogen pills (orally and/or vaginally) to try and get her lining to thicken up to receive the embryos.  In the meantime, I’d get started with injections to stimulate the follicles, take a shot to mature them, have them extracted then fertilized.  Wait between 3-5 days while the eggs grow and then transfer them into our surrogates uterus.

All well and good, but the timing has to be perfect.  The surrogate’s lining has to be a perfect thickness in order to take the embryos… which means the intended mother’s IVF cycle has to be carefully planned to coincide with it.  Which is going to be very interesting (to say the least) in our case.

Step 9: Pray it worked (Do I include the cost of anti-anxiety pills here??)

Wait for two weeks until beta day to find out of the embryos implanted… if not…

Do not pass Go.  Do not collect $200.  Begin again at step 7 and repeat.

If it works!  Congrats!!  Now you’re pregnant… well she is, with your kid.

Step 10: Realize that legally you have no say into anything during the pregnancy. (Cue anti-anxiety meds again)

In Ontario, once the surrogate is pregnant, the law considers it her child regardless of it’s biological origins.  So if the surrogate decides to take up whiskey, pot smoking and moves to China… We have no say.

Now you’d ask why we spent thousands on a legal agreement if it means nothing?  Well… because that’s the process.  And the process sucks.

We have to have an agreement to start, but the agreement really doesn’t mean anything once she is pregnant (it wouldn’t hold up in court as the fetus is legally ‘hers’).  The only thing it would mean is if the surrogate directly violated the contract, the intended parents could withhold the expense payments.  Woop-di-dooo

So this means if the surrogate so chose, she could abort the pregnancy at any time or selectively reduce the pregnancy at any time (aborting one or more fetuses if there are many for medical reasons for the children or mother).  You get the picture.  This next 9 months is where it is incredibly important that in Step 2 you found a good surrogate who you completely and absolutely trust.

Step 11: Expenses ($$$$ For us, capped at a total of $21,000 plus any lost wages capped at $14,000)

Now is the part where you cover the surrogates expenses incurred during the pregnancy. And so you should. The basis of this legal principle allowed in Canada is based on the fact that this person, who is carrying you child for purely altruistic purposes, should not incur any expenses as a result.

Expenses can literally include almost anything if it related to the pregnancy. The easy ones to think of are maternity clothing, mileage to and from appointments and check ups, pre-natal vitamins, and covering babysitting costs if necessary to get to appointments. The ones you probably wouldn’t think of are covering life insurance premiums (at a minimum coverage rate), any lost wages if the surrogate becomes ill and/or if they go on bed rest and/or during the delivery and recovery, house keepers to assist with house work if tired/ill, healthy food, gym memberships, massage, chiropractor, and pretty much anything else you could possibly imagine that could somehow be tied to pregnancy.

As you can imagine, this portion can get extremely expensive. Interestingly enough, the average for expenses for surrogates that are close with their intended parents versus those who are strangers are drastically different. And I imagine so… I don’t think my best friend is going to go on a crazy shopping spree with my credit card for thousands of dollars of maternity clothes. She will go and get what she needs, plus I’ll push her to get a little more. Same with a house keeper etc. This is the part of the legal contract that is actually helpful as it stipulates the maximums allowed that the surrogate can charge.

All receipts and payments to the surrogate needs to be kept and tracked. Our lawyer and others have noted that we will most certainly be audited when it comes to tax time, so keep track of everything. To date, no one has yet been charged under this specific law so the boundaries around what are considered ‘expenses’ has yet to be decided in court. We don’t really want to be the first case… so we are following the rules precisely.

Step 12: Legal… again. ($$$- Around $5,000 – $10,000)

At around 24 weeks gestation, you get in contact with your lawyer again. When it comes time to give birth, it is important that the Hospital know the information surrounding this agreement as well as who the biological parents are. The lawyer starts correspondence with the Hospital to ensure they are aware and on board with our arrangement. Additionally, we need to ensure that all medical decision making for the baby, once born, is at our discretion. Legally, the baby is still considered to be the surrogate’s- so we need to ensure that the Hospital is ok with the surrogate having the authority to make decisions about herself and the baby while it is inside of her, but once born, all medical directives for the child would come from us.  Complicated.  But important.

heroStep 13: Have the baby. (OHIP covers the costs of the birth the same as any other in Ontario)

Suddenly the birth process sounds so easy, doesn’t it?

Here is the part where you surrogate actually endures labour and gives birth to your child. Yep, as I mentioned before. She’s an angel or a super hero.  Or both.

Step 14: Who’s baby is it? ($$- Legal fess cover off some of the above but you also need to pay for DNA testing etc)

Legally, until proven otherwise, it is the surrogate’s baby. We would initiate DNA testing of the child, the intended parents, and the surrogate to get confirmation of the biological origin of the child. This takes a little bit of time to send off and then receive the results. In the meantime, you cannot register the child’s birth as registering him/her in the intended parents names isn’t allowed, and registering him/her in the surrogates name would be false. And so you wait…

Step 15: DNA Results are in! Now off to court…!? (Covered in the legal expenses referenced above)

Once the DNA results come in, the lawyer now has to prepare what is called a Declaration of Parentage. This is a formal procedure in which the lawyer presents our situation to the judge along with the surrogacy contract and DNA results and petitions the court to put the intended parents (us!) names on the birth certificate. This normally happens in a closed door session in front of a judge.

The second step to this is a Declaration of Non-Parentage. This is sort of the opposite procedure. In Ontario, believe it or not, it is legal to have more than two persons names on the birth certificate. So adding our names would mean that it would now be listed as the surrogate plus us. We then have to provide the court with the above declaration to get the surrogates name off the birth certificate so there is no further legal link to the child.

Congratulations! You now have a baby AND the law recognizes that s/he is yours!

Now time to register the birth and celebrate.

Oh… and explain to the world that even though you didn’t have a baby bump, the baby is actually yours biologically.

Step 16: Have the Gov’t Screw you Again ($$$$- Cost of my top-up benefit and EI for ‘maternity’ portion of your leave from work.

Because I didn’t actually give birth to the child, I am only entitled to receive gov’t assistance (read: Employment Insurance) for the parental leave portion of the year (37 weeks). I can choose to take a full year off work, however, I do not receive anything for the ‘maternity’ (15 weeks) leave portion.

This has actually gone to the uppers courts previously as it was challenged that this is discriminating against those who are unable to bare children (cause it sure is… Haven’t we been through enough?  Since I can’t bare children, and you already won’t pay for me to try to have them, you then won’t give me the same benefits as a birth mother.  Nice). The court rules that the maternity portion is specifically for recovering from childbirth, it is the parental section is for raising the child.

To add insult to injury, my job allows for maternity/parental leave ‘top-up” to top up my salary to a percentage during my leave. However, the language reads that it will top-up the difference between my EI and my wages (to a percentage)  … So if I don’t get EI, I don’t get top-up.

But hey, I’ve got the child of our dreams- so I guess I’ll focus on the bigger picture.

 

 

 

We’re doing what?! -Dan’s Perspective on Surrogacy

Now, as I said previously, Dan wasn’t initially a big fan of this whole idea.  So I asked (read: forced) him to answer a couple more questions in order to try and get an idea of what was running through his head during this time:

Q: Your first reaction to the idea of surrogacy was that it wasn’t for us, can you explain your initial concerns?
A: That just sounds WEIRD! No one actually does that. Sure, I thought we would have to try some different procedures to attempt to get pregnant, but this just seemed odd.
Q: When we made the decision to sit down and discuss the positive and negatives of surrogacy and adoption, what were your thoughts?  Were you surprised at the final decision?
A: Going into the pros and cons, I thought for sure I would have way more Pros for adoption as I have always thought adoption would be a great way to fulfill our dream of  starting a family. Once we actually got into it, there are many many hurdles you have to get over before you can even think about adopting a baby. I was also shocked at the criteria you have to meet to adopt from most countries.
Q: What were two things that surprised you most about surrogacy/gestational carriers?
A: I was shocked with how detailed and specific the legal side of the agreements are. It makes sense but it goes into detail about EVERY little aspect and possible circumstances that could come up.
The other thing that surprised me was regarding payment.  Although I knew that legally, in Canada, you can not pay a surrogate/gestational carrier, I didn’t know it is actually illegal to even buy her flowers while she is in the hospital- as it’s considered a ‘gift/payment’.
Q: What are your biggest concerns or apprehensions surrounding this decision?
A: Although Jen is a very close friend (basically family), I would never want her to feel responsible if anything beyond her control goes wrong.
Q: But seriously, Adele’s best friend is going to carry your kid…. How are you going to explain this to friends and family?
A: The people who matter in our lives are very supportive.  Also, the more people we share this idea with, I find they are more curious than anything else.
*     *     *     *     *
Choosing to build our family with help from a third party obviously isn’t an easy decision.  We have been plagued by impossibly difficult moral and ethical decisions along the road.  Decisions that we, quite frankly, had never dreamed of having to make.
I’m not quite sure what the right answers are.  And I know that there are tons of nay-sayers out there- about fertility treatments, about IVF, about freezing embryos, and now about involving a third party.  Sometimes I feel the need to defend our decisions to others.  Sometimes I just want to laugh and say what others think doesn’t actually matter.
Ultimately, one of the most important things that we have learned through this process is this wonderful quote:
“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”
– B. Baruch
lucky

Our baby… Her belly?

quoteSo we got the okay from the clinic that we had been praying for.  Once we actually got the okay, I was on a complete high.

Thus far in our journey, I felt as though we just continually got bad news.  The meds don’t work, the IUI didn’t work, the cycle won’t work, sedation didn’t work, IVF didn’t work, FETs didn’t work…. my body didn’t work.  This was the first time that I could feel a real sense of optimism.

I made all of our happy calls to family and close friends.  Of course, Jen was the first text I sent.  “We’re approved!!!!”.  Jen and I BBM all day long… basically every day.  And she didn’t answer right away.  She generally is pretty good at answering quickly, however, she does run a daycare so I know to expect a text back once she has a spare second.

A minute went by… then two… Then the doubt started to set in.  Holy crap.  What if she isn’t ready for this?  Well, it’s not that we have agreed to everything yet.  We had really only agreed that we would discuss it seriously and evaluate our options if the clinic gave us the approval.

I couldn’t wait another second.  My car phone was now calling her.  “Jen! We’re approved!! … Don’t have a heart attack!”.  She laughed a nervous laugh and said that she was just shocked.  After the last appointment it seemed like this was no longer an option.  We had all kind of accepted that this wasn’t the path that we were going to take, and now we had done a 180.  My heart dropped- maybe she wasn’t as sure as I had thought she was when she offered.

She laughed- a real laugh this time- and said she was just taking a moment to let it settle in.  My instinct made me blurt out, “If you’re not sure, or if it’s too fast, or it’s just not what you thought, it’s ok.  I more than completely understand.  The fact that you ever thought about it means the world to us.”

My heart was thumping 1000 beats per minute.  Was this great news, not really so great after all?  Surrogacy was not an option that we were thinking about with just anyone.  Surrogacy was something we considered based on the fact that it was Jen.  We had already made the decision that if it wasn’t her, we weren’t interested.

She then talked me off the cliff, as only best friends can.  We didn’t know everything, and there was a lot to figure out.  But she was still on board.  She had to just get her head back in the game.  Her offer was the same offer that we had started with.  Surrogacy might be right for us- but we had a lot to figure out first.

I think this is the part that I get to say… My friend’s better than your friend!~

LOL… ok.  But seriously.  How many people have a best friend in their life that they are willing to literally give up a year of their life (if it works the first time!), have invasive tests and procedures, go through the emotional roller coaster of pregnancy and the associated health risks that go along with them- the stretch marks, nausea, labour and birth- then simply hand over the baby to you.  Not to mention deal with the social stigma of being a single pregnant woman trying to explain to her children, family, church, friends, and daycare parents that yes, she is pregnant.  But no, it isn’t “hers”.

Words don’t even begin to describe our feelings.  How can you put into words our sincerest gratitude for such a miraculous gift.  The words Thank-you just don’t seem to cut it.

Whether or not this works.  Whether or not we even go through with this.  The very fact that she has given this idea this much thought, and is willing to investigate it further, is perhaps the biggest gift that anyone could ever give.

*     *     *     *     *

I guess here is where you begin to wonder what is going through Jen’s head.  Is she actually crazy or a saint as I have described her.  My vote is the saint… but here’s some of her thoughts in her own words.

Q: At what point during our  journey through infertility did you consider offering to be a surrogate?

A: I’m honestly not sure.  I had thought about it before, but I know it was after you received upsetting news that I knew it was a for sure offer that I had to give.

Q: What resources did you use to better understand surrogacy in Canada?

A: Before I had talked to you about it, I had been doing research online and had downloaded a few ebooks to get me informed.  It helped me with the legal view and most of the medical (we all know not one case could be like yours… but close!).  There are a lot of forums out there FOR surrogates so I was able to see things from their point of view and know their feelings actually going through it.

Q: What was/is your biggest concern or apprehension about offering to our surrogate?

A: Obviously my kids were the only part I was really nervous about… Well, and my Grandparents.  Just explaining this situation is, dare I say, “weird” and I wasn’t sure if my family would be on board with it.

Q: Are you crazy?

A: I am your best friend… Can’t get much crazier than that!  🙂  Well, minus the sister wives jokes from the doctors… awkward!

*     *     *     *     *

hope

Hoping for the best, Preparing for the worst: The Clinic’s Final Decision

October 24th, 2013: The big day!

Today is the day that we head back to the clinic to find out the RE and the team’s opinion about how we move forward.  I’ve spent the last 3 weeks going through each and every scenario, and how it would work.  I also have every scenario’s questions laid out in my mind to ensure we get all the answers we need.  Knowing the RE didn’t seem to be interested in surrogacy for us, I needed to know every medical reason behind each option and how it might work.  This was the only way we could make decisions about how was can move forward.

Dan and I got to the appointment, and I was trying to prepare myself for the news- and to be honest, I wasn’t exactly expecting great news.  Could I do another IVF round again?  How…? Emotionally, mentally, and physically I wasn’t so sure I could handle it.

To doc sat us down and opened with, “After review with my team and your medical history, we believe we’d be very supportive if you wanted to move forward with a gestational carrier”.  WHAT?!!!

This was the one scenario that I didn’t plan for.  The last appointment made it pretty clear that this wasn’t something that he was excited for.  My mouth actually dropped.  He laughed and said he thought I’d be happier with the news.

It wasn’t that it wasn’t exciting, but how did this come about?  What had changed?  The doc explained that after reviewing everything, we didn’t have very much medical evidence to base our decisions on.  We were basically guessing at best.

He explained that there was a very high chance of OHSS for me due to the amount of meds I require, and the extremely high levels of estrogen that I kept having.  This would not be supportive for the transfer, and additionally, could actually lead to us being cancelled- meaning either no retrieval or no fresh transfer- both not good.  Secondly, there was no medical evidence to support that is would work if we continued.  He said that we might be right, but then so might he.

He emphasized the importance of the ‘right’ carrier, not just any carrier.  Third party fertility was very difficult and not clear cut in Canada due to our laws.  This was not something to do on a whim with such anyone.  He felt that the close-knit friendship I had with the potential carrier, as well as her family situation was actually optimal for a gestational carrier.

The other issues that weighed into the decision was if I was able to get pregnant, we still may have problems during pregnancy and birth due to my bleeding disorder and the anti-depressants (which we now an even higher dose than before- thanks infertility!).

I honestly had no response for the doc.  This was the exact appointment I had dreamed about getting, but was not expecting at all.  Dan asked a bunch of questions, which, quite frankly, was very un-Dan like.  He is normally more of a nod and listen type of guy.  But he was the pinch hitter in this appointment as I just sat there stunned.

The doc said we needed to talk to the IVF nurse to discuss specifics, but we had his blessing and off he went.  My heart was racing, I had a huge smile plastered across my face, and I couldn’t stop squeezing Dan’s hand- this was it!  We’re going to have a baby!!!

The IVF nurse came in and went over how to move forward.  First things first, did we understand the financial impact? Well yes, I already had a colour coded spreadsheet at home with our guess-timates of cost.  Then, out came the sheet.  Holy sh*t… I perhaps forgot that OHIP would cover nothing.  At all.

Every appointment with the doc, blood tests, ultrasounds etc would all need to be paid for.  And man, did those fees add up.  We remembered the IVF fees, the counseling fees, the legal fees, the expenses, the post pregnancy expenses, but totally forgot about these.  The general estimate for typical surrogacy arrangements in Canada was anywhere between $60,000 – $90,000.

We swallowed and smiled.  Yes, the fees were ok.  Nothing was going to make my smile disappear today.

Our plan was that Jen would need to come into the clinic for an assessment by our doc.  He would go over her medical history and determine if she was a medical fit.  If she passed that test, she would get the privilege of having a sonohysterogram and blood work.  If she passed that hurdle, next was the psychiatric analysis.  If we all made it through those appointments, then we’d be off to the lawyers to sort out a surrogacy contract.  Once we have that, we would have to sync up Jen and my cycles, then off we go- I’d get medicated, grow awesome eggs, get them retrieved at the same time as getting Jen’s uterus ready for the embryos, pray the eggs fertilized, pray they make it and continue to grow them in an incubator for 3-5 days, then implant them back into Jen.  Then pray for sticky vibes and hope they stick and she would get pregnant!

Easy peazy….??! Breathe in.  Breathe out.

By the time I made it the 30 steps from the conference room to the front desk, I had texted Jen and my parents with the good news.

Even though we hadn’t had our official sit down with Jen, I got a bit ahead of myself and booked her for her initial consultation two weeks from now (to the tune of $250.00… :S) and left my credit card number.

To do: Call Jen and set up a little family meeting to discuss her carrying our child, go over all the information we had received and try to ensure we understand each step then come up with a new updated budget, oh, and raise our credit card limits.  Bright side is that we’re about to get a ton of air miles…!

On we go! Surrogacy here we come!!

Image

Found this… Infertility, IVF, Depression, Surrogacy… all scary things to put out there onto the internet for anyone to read. But this quote sums up what my hopes are!

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

The next week was a long, difficult week for us.  We tried to process the idea of loosing something I’d always taken for granted- having a baby.  I was home from work.  This was both a blessing and a curse.

As time moved forward, and the longer I had been away from work, the more anxious I got about returning back. I was still very depressed, tired, achy, and wanted to sleep the day away.  On the other hand, getting back to work would keep my mind occupied.  Plus, I love my job.  I kept telling myself I’d go back tomorrow.

Then the evening would hit and I would be so anxious my mind would be racing in circles.  My job took my full concentration.  What would happen if I went back and made a mistake?  What if I missed something?  There were potential negative consequences for others if I made an error.  This thinking was enough to push me back into my cave of loneliness and I’d crawl back into bed for yet another day.

Days became a week, then two.  I needed to go back.  My calendar was fairly light for the next week ahead so thought it might be a good time to ease back in.  I promised myself that Monday would be my first day.

Monday came, I made it to work, and nothing terrible happened.  Tuesday followed, and I was back into the swing of things.  Focusing on other issues made our problems fade into the background… at least during my working hours.  Evenings I’d return home and feel lost at what to do next.

We had our WTF appointment at the end of the week.  Dan and I talked daily about what questions we had, what we needed to understand, and what we had decided- we were done with trying.  Our evenings turned into mini-counseling sessions.  Dan and I would try to talk through everything focusing on what was next.  (Ok, I talked through everything.  Dan did a lot of nodding.)  One thing we knew was that we couldn’t just jump into something else, we had to mend ourselves from this process first.  Throughout the week we talked about next steps.  We had decided to look into surrogacy as our next step, but the clinic didn’t know that yet.  What would they say about our new plan?

The night before our appointment it occurred to me- I needed to completely change my way of thinking.  Instead of focusing on ‘getting pregnant’, I know had to focus on ‘making a family’.  At one time, those meant the same thing.  However, now, I knew they were two very separate things.  Getting pregnant was only one solution.  Changing this mindset would take some time, but thinking about things this way made me feel like there was some light at the end of the tunnel. 

This wasn’t the end, this was just the end of trying ourselves.  More importantly, this was about the be the beginning of a whole different story.  Our story.

WTF Appointment Day:

Dan and I pulled into the clinic and gave each other the ‘we can do this’ smile.  We held hands and walked through the door.  This past year and half may have beat us down, but we made it through.  One thing was for certain, our marriage had never been stronger.  If we could make it through this, we could make it through almost anything.

We sat down with our RE and he said he was sorry about our disappointing news.  He then started into how he was going to change our protocol for the next round in hopes that it would take significantly less time to get my body to produce follicles (eggs).  I kept trying to jump in but he continued on and on about different medications we could try to help etc.  Finally, I stopped him.  I asked him to back up.

Why didn’t it work?  What went wrong?  Was it me?  Was it the embryos? He simply shook his head.  Science had come so far, and the doctors and scientists knew so much about everything before you actually put the embryos inside me.  Once they were inside, we just had no idea what went wrong.  There was no medical answers.  It could be my body rejecting the embryos, it could be something wrong with the embryos, or it could be simply bad luck.

Then I just came out and said it.  We were done.  We simply couldn’t do it anymore.  It took an entire year straight to do only 4 cycles (when most people would get to do 12).  The emotional, physical, and financial toll was just too heavy.  If the doctor didn’t have any reason why it wasn’t working, then what would change if we did it again?  My body was simply revolting at the idea of carrying a child.  No matter what we did, my body seemed to protest it.

I then told him about Jen’s offer of surrogacy and said that we were interested in exploring this option further.

He just shook his head.  What kind of surrogacy he asked?  We were thinking about Jen being a gestational carrier.  This meant that it would be my eggs, Dan’s sperm, and her uterus.  The child would have no DNA connection to Jen, we would ‘simply’ be using her body as an oven.

He took a deep breath and shook his head again.  This was not a simple process he explained- had we looked into it?  Did we know what it entailed?  And if we wanted to do it, we would still be required to make eggs again which was one of the most difficult parts last time.  He explained that while our clinic was one that would work with surrogates, that all of the docs would have to agree that Dan and I made good candidates.  This was not a simple hurdle and was not decided on lightly.  In order for the clinic doctors (the 5 of them) to approve us for moving forward with surrogacy, they would basically be saying they felt there was virtually no chance of us being successful by ourselves.  He wasn’t sure if we met that criteria yet…

I was stunned.  I had thought that we had figured out the perfect option to move forward with.  We had someone who was willing to investigate the process further.  We were with a clinic that would work with gestational carriers, and fertility treatments were simply not working for us.  And now the doc was all but saying no?  I was crushed. 

I asked him if he felt that Dan and I could conceive.  He said that there was no medical evidence at this time telling him that we could not.  I asked then if there was therefore medical evidence that we could?  He looked at us thoughtfully… and slowly said no.

He said, “In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have to worry about the costs associated with these treatments.  If we were in Holland or even Quebec, these services would be covered by the government and we would like to do three fresh transfers.  Once a couple has done three fresh transfers and was not successful, it was at that time that the clinic would say that we were unable to conceive.”  We had done one fresh transfer, and two frozen transfers plus an attempt at the less invasive IUI.  Not exactly his formula above, but it also wasn’t like we hadn’t given it our all.

The doc sat there in silence for a minute then said, “I know that your situation is very unique.  We have had issues at every step of the way and we know that you are not a typical infertile couple.  Let me think about this a little more and I will take it to my team to discuss.  We will discuss if we feel you are appropriate candidates for surrogacy and get back to you.”

Defeated, I nodded.  We shook his hand and left the clinic.  I finally thought that we had an opportunity to move forward… and now we were in exactly the same place we were a year and a half ago (only thousands and thousands of dollars poorer).

When we were going to get a break?  It appeared my ideology about this being the beginning of a new story for us meant nothing.  This looked like it was simply going to be the end.

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Picking Up the Pieces

Is it possible to mourn for something you never had to begin with?

The day we got the negative test is basically a blur.  I honestly don’t remember how I got home from Pita Pit or what happened next.  I do know that I ended up curled in the fetal position sobbing in our bed.  It just felt surreal.  Did this actually happen?  We had put everything into fertility- physically, emotionally, spiritually, psychologically, and financially.  The science behind it seemed so logical and the doctor’s were so optimistic with our case.  Hell, from the start, we didn’t even think we had fertility issues.  Yet here we were.  Broke, devastated, and an a completely empty uterus.

I stayed in bed with a cocktail of anti-anxiety meds and kleenexes for the next couple of days.  My mind just could not compute that this had just happened to us.  It was so easy to be angry with the rest of the world and adopt the ‘poor me’ mantra.  How could women who didn’t want or care about their children continued to be blessed with them?  How could the rest of world take for granted the miracle of life that was being with held from us?  It just didn’t seem fair.  We are a young married couple who are unquestioningly in love.  We have good jobs, a loving home, supportive family and friends, and so much room in our hearts to dedicate ourselves to our child.  Yet, here we were at a dead end.

It feels utterly impossible to describe in words what it feels like.  My heart was broken.  Completely shattered… and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to piece it back together again.  To make matters worse, Dan, who had always been my optimistic rock, took it just as hard.  He tried so hard to keep it together, to put on a smile to encourage me to come back to the living… But this blow was just too hard to take.

That evening, we just lay in bed together with our faces inches apart, crying.  Our dream, a simple dream of having a family, was over.  No words could console us.  We just needed time to mourn.

 

Day 3: The third day after the news, I pulled myself together, put on dress clothes and tried to return to work. If I could just get back to the business of every day life, then perhaps I could give my brain (and heart) a rest to try and forget… even just for 7 hours a day.  I put everything into my work, but I just couldn’t keep it together.  My colleagues, most of whom knew what was going on, came by to give me a hug or say they were thinking about me. I couldn’t even fake that I was ok.  I’d burst into tears at the drop of a dime.  I was hvaing problems concentrating, making decisions, and was just utterly exhausted. 

At lunch, I decided to walk to Pita Pit so I could at least get a comforting hug from Dan. We share our building with public health and they had just put up a several posters that morning in our elevator.  With one look, I had a complete break down and ended up sitting in the corner of the elevator bawling my eyes out. 

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Am I pregnant? No. I am not.

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I just couldn’t do this.  I lasted three hours and I just couldn’t do it.  I went down the parking garage to drive home… but was far too upset to drive.  So instead, I reclined my chair in my car, and laid down there in the dark trying to relax. 

I made it home and emailed my manager to let him know that, again, I’d need to be off sick again.  Work had been so supportive, however with each day I took off meant that someone else was stuck trying to cover my work.  We are all so busy so I felt like I had to come back. 

Day 4: I tried working from home.  I was trying my best but wasn’t doing great- my thinking was working a little was better than nothing, right?  That afternoon, a colleague called my cell.  She has had some medical issues herself and wanted to chat with me re: sick time.  Known for her bluntness, she gave it to me straight.  Work would would survive if I got hit by a truck tomorrow and never returned.  I needed to stop thinking about work, and instead focus on me.  Focus on healing.

I needed that kick in the butt- I needed someone to tell me that while I did a good job, work wasn’t going to fall apart without me.  I emailed my assistant and my manager and let them know that I’d be going off sick… for at least a week.  I would check back in later and let them know how I was doing.  Looking back, I am so thankful to my colleague.  I definitely needed some time to grieve. 

Day 5: I just could not shake this terrible grief that I felt.  I felt alone.  Powerless.  Furious. Defeated.  Angry.  Misunderstood.  Depressed.  Anxious.  Distressed.  Heartbroken.  Miserable.  Things were not getting better.  But how could they?  My body, and now my mind, was broken… and I wasn’t going to be magically fixed.

Day 6: I decided I needed help.  I called my family doctor and got an appointment for that afternoon.  When he walked into the room I just burst out crying and told him our sad story up until then.  I asked him for more anti-depressants because these ones were obviously not working.  I couldn’t kick this.  I couldn’t just cheer up.  The future seemed dim at the very best.  We chatted for an hour in his office.  We talked about my support system, my future options, and how to best move forward.  That’s when he said it… Adele, you are in mourning- the same you would be if you lost someone close to you.  Mourning?  To mourn, didn’t I actually have to lose someone?  If that someone was never even born, how can I experience mourning?

We talked about the five stages of loss and grief and it fit perfectly.  I had been in stage one- denial and isolation for the first couple days.  I was so overwhelmed by my emotions that I questioned if this was even possible.  It felt like a bad dream that I would one day snap out of.

Stage two- Anger had reared it’s ugly head.  Anyone who was having a child, had a child, or once was a child was on my list of people I hated… everyone. It just wasn’t fair that I was here and others weren’t.  

As we continued to chat, I realized I was somewhere between stage 3 and 4.  Bargaining and depression.  I had spent my last days re-thinking my cycles and wondering if there was anything we could have done differently.  I was also questioning our decision to stop trying… I remember we had good ideas on why to stop then, but now, I couldn’t help but think ‘what if’ we just tried one more time?  The depression had hit at full force and I just felt like I was stuck in the bottom of a deep cavernous pit with no hope of climbing out.

My doctor prescribed a heavier dosage of my already high amount of anti-depressants and asked me to check in with him next week. 

I went home and tried to process how to mourn for something you never really had.  Not an easy task.

I booked another appointment with the clinic to discuss what had happened and what to do now.  We needed to have some closure and I hoped that the doctors could provide us that.  The WTF appointment was next week. Next steps seemed too far away to think about, but we also needed to hear medically what went wrong.