Tuesday, June 24, 2008

J's last shot, dopplers and vacation!

I just have to post a huge HIP, HIP, HOORAY that J did her last shot yesterday!! This is very, very exciting. She has been giving herself a 1" shot in the butt every night at 10 pm for about 10 weeks now. As you can imagine that is tiring, and a pain in the butt (both meanings intended). :) She was such a pro through the whole thing. Whereas most people can't even look at a needle like that, she did it no problem from the very first day. J actually put it in as a "test run" before she had to! LOL So, we have now hit the big 12 weeks AND J is done with shots AND we are seeing a "regular" doctor now. It feels like we are really moving along now!

J and R invited us over last night to hear the heartbeats on the home doppler. They were so funny - they have a total process down to find them within literally a couple of minutes. J promptly laid down, R got the requisite tools (paper towls, ultrasound lotion, machine), they applied the gel to her stomach, then R moved the wand around and almost immediately found the first baby. (I have to admit that I still can't figure out which baby is which - I think we heard Baby B first though because Baby A has moved positions some.) R then found Baby A soon after (they are in distinct locations now, so it's clear they are different babies). We counted the beats and they are still going at 170-180 bpm, which is great! I'm so grateful for the doppler!

B and I are going on vacation Thursday until July 6 so I'll be silent during that time. We're taking sort of a "babymoon", though that term is so obnoxious. In reality, we have a timeshare that we need to use every year or else we lose money. We had to schedule it before we even found out J was pregnant. Over the last 3 years, we've certainly stopped planning things according to whether or not we thought a cycle would work! This time, of course, it actually did. I hate to leave out of fear that something will happen while we are gone, but I guess it does me no good to sit around wondering if something will happen here either. So we are going on and when we get back we'll be 14 weeks!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Our first "OB" appointment

We had our first "OB" appointment on Tuesday. By OB I mean that we saw a regular doctor for the first time instead of a fertility doctor since we have officially been released by the fertility clinic. But, we didn't actually see an OB, it was a midwife. The insurance requires that everyone sees a midwife first, even though with twins you always get referred from there to a doctor, or even perinatologist (high risk pregnancy doctor). We requested a referral to the perinatologist since it is twins but their standard practice it seemed was that a regular doctor was enough if the only risk factor was twins. Since the midwife wasn't sure if the peri would see us, she scheduled our next appointment with a regular OB and put in a referral for the peri at the same time. That way, if we get turned down for the peri, we just show up for the OB appointment. If we don't get turned down, we cancel that appointment and go to the peri. The assumption is that whomever we see at the next appointment will be the doctor we'll see for the rest of the pregnancy, which is exciting! I'm looking forward to seeing someone consistently. (Though I guess there is a possibility that we'll see the peri and then we'll get referred back to an OB.)

Either way, we have the official ultrasound to confirm the twins for insurance purposes on July 7. They did an ultrasound this week on a really low grade machine that was really fuzzy. We got pictures but they weren't very good. The next ultrasound will be with a technician (I don't think we even see a doctor that day) and will be on a better, high quality machine so the insurance has documentation for their files of the twins directly (they don't want our fertility clinic files). We'll be 14 weeks at that point and I have seen a few people find out genders that early...I'm very much hoping we get lucky like that because we're dying to know!

We did see the babies moving all around on this ultrasound. Both of them were very active and moving all over the place, more than ever! Plus, we saw the little heartbeats pounding. (Our other doctor never showed us the heartbeats, we just heard them.)

One last thing - we found out that I will be classified as "advanced maternal age"! I'm 32!! Normally you get that label (which equates with "high risk" treatment and attention) if you are 35 or older and pregnant. But, if it is twins, they lower the age to 32 and I just turned 32 last week. It doesn't increase your chance of a baby being chromosomally abnormal if he/she is one of two, but with two babies, there is of course a higher likelihood that one could have a problem - about the same likelihood as a 35+ year old with one baby, hence the label (The chances are all still very low.) We turned down the genetic counseling appointment since we wouldn't terminate no matter what. But even after J explained this to them, they have called her multiple times because they feel so strongly given the circumstances (32 and twins) that we "understand the risks"!!! It's really strange to me that they would press so much after we said we're not interested. I'm guessing they just don't see a lot of twins come through. Oh well, I'll look on the bright side: with them classifying us as higher risk, we'll get more prenatal attention. And on the brightest side, I'm just so grateful that J's insurance covers this, that I'll do just about anything they want. :)

Next ultrasound: July 7
Next doctor appointment: July 9 (unless we get the peri referral)

Monday, June 16, 2008

Check out J's blog...

I just wanted to put up a quick post to point to J's blog entry for yesterday:


She made the most amazing Father's Day video for B! At every step of this journey, J has been acting as a surrogate out of joy and love. It is so obvious when you see her thoughtfulness in making this video. It makes it doubly wonderful to receive the gift of surrogacy from someone who truly is joyful about what she is doing.

I'll update tomorrow after our first OB appointment!

(p.s. Those heartbeats in the videos are really our little babies from the home doppler!!)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Surrogate Classified Ad

I mentioned in my last post that our doctor asked where he could find more great surrogates like J. This made me think, what characteristics make a great surrogate? It takes a really special person, but what does that mean exactly? If I were to write a classified ad based on our experience thus far, here's how it would go:

Looking for an amazing person who meets the following requirements:
--Willing to go through all the physcial and emotional demands of pregnancy for 9 months, but give the baby to someone else at the end.
--Willing to carry multiple babies - sometimes even more than twins - given the increased likelihood of multiple gestation due to IVF procedure
--Willing to literally risk your own life given that any pregnancy can have dangerous complications regardless of past pregnancies
--Willing to administer daily shots to stomach and/or hip for twelve weeks
--Have spouse or other family members willing to help take care of your own children while you are away at appointments
--Willing and able to explain what's going on to your own children and manage the impact that it can have on them
--Have an ENORMOUS amount of patience to deal with the unusual yet characteristic stress of the intended (infertile) parents, who will constantly be asking questions, and freaking out over things you would never have even considered with your own pregnancy
--Have strong enough confidence in what you are doing that you aren't shaken by people who don't understand why the heck anyone would take on this job or even look at it negatively
--Did we mention the actual child birth part? There's that too...
--Pay: $0 (not allowed if using surrogate's insurance coverage)

It's pretty hard to imagine any takers, isn't it? Surrogates are truly compassionate angels.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The home doppler...it worked!

Last week I ordered a home doppler...basically you can now rent these things for about $20 per month so you can hear the heartbeat at home. While most normal people would never think about this, women with multiple miscarriages or pregnant after infertility very commonly get them for reassurance that everything is OK between appointments.

Ours arrived today. How apropos given the concerns of the day. J and R stayed after our weekly Bible study tonight to try it out. We all got excited about finding what sounded like the heartbeat until we counted the beats and realized we were probably picking up HER pulse (only about half the rate of the babies at this point in the pregnancy). We couldn't find the babies' heartbeats at all. I actually didn't freak anymore than I already had been all day because they say it can be quite difficult to pick up the heartbeats this early. However, I was well aware that by week 12 (a week and a half from now), they said you should be able to pick up the heartbeat 95% of the time.

So J and R left and a little later R instant messaged B to tell him that they tried it again but lower in the abdomen and picked one up right away with the right heart rate! Then a little later R called because they had found the other one, a little to the "west", also with the same heartbeat they gave us at the clinic. How amazing that this technology is available to us. It certainly is nice to have the reassurance that at least for now everything sounds well. J could even feel movement from one of the babies when they were pressing right where they found the heartbeat!

A lot of people have asked if there will be repeat blood work or anything due to the progesterone drop. The doctor isn't concerned at all so he didn't mention it. He also released us yesterday to the regular OB, with whom we have an appointment on Tuesday so I guess we'll see what they say then. In the meantime I guess we just hope that he is right and bust out the home doppler between ultrasounds to confirm they are still there. I can't imagine a better use of $20 bucks per month right now. :)

And just when you think all is well...

There is a possible problem. J's progesterone has dropped from 126 to 48 over the last 2 weeks even though there was no change in the medicine dose. 126 is way above the normal range (though that's not a problem), and 48 is at the highest end. So the levels themselves are fine. BUT levels do not normally drop like this. They usually continue building. Levels can fluctuate due to labs and testing times, etc., but this is more than a fluctuation. This is quite a massive drop. Please pray that everything is OK. I talked to the doctor this morning and he was non-committal to an answer, as always. He just kept saying things looked great yesterday and that levels fluctuate and he thinks everything is fine. I kept pointing out this was a HUGE drop and he really didn't have an answer. Typically, dropping progesterone like this indicates a miscarriage or impending miscarriage. What doesn't make sense is that everything looked great on the ultrasound. So I don't know what this means. Of course, I'm terrified right now.

3rd Ultrasound and released to the OB!

We had our third ultrasound yesterday (10 weeks, 2 days)! I can't believe how much these little babies grow each time we see them (it has been every two weeks). They both are measuring great with very strong heartbeats, which we got to hear again. One of them was moving around like crazy on the screen, but the other was much more relaxed. B says he likes the relaxed one more. LOL One of them wasn't cooperating with the camera very much so we didn't get as good of a picture this time. BUT one part of the picture was truly amazing to me...you can see little toes and fingers already! Take a look at the baby on the right. At the bottom of the sac you can see the leg and little toes. Amazing! In reality, the babies are about the size of a small plum right now.

One of the other exciting things that happened yesterday is that we were released from the fertility clinic to a regular doctor for the rest of the pregnancy. I feel like a normal person now! It feels like a milestone to be saying goodbye to the clinic. One of the neat things is that going into this I think our Dr. was a little unsure of it all because it's not like they do surrogacy cases regularly (it's still pretty rare)...but because of our great success he asked yesterday where he can find more surrogates like J for other patients who need them. :)

We have our first midwife appointment on Tuesday. J's insurance requires that everyone see a midwife first and then if you need a referral for high risk pregnancies she would do it then. We assume we will get to see an OB given that twins are usually considered high risk. I have no idea what will happen at that appointment but I'm excited because it's so soon!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

No one thinks it will happen to them

We heard yesterday that a friend of a friend has an inoperable cancerous brain tumor. He is 38 with a toddler and five month old twins. Even though I don't personally know this person, he is a close friend of one of B's close friends so it seems different than just hearing that someone in the world found out they have a brain tumor (and B does know him as an acquaintance). B and I can't stop thinking about this person and his family. Apparently, he had migraines for a while but didn't think anything of it. He finally went to the doctor after his arm went numb one day, they did the tests, and within a week he went from being a guy who gets bad headaches periodically to a guy being told he has an inoperable cancerous brain tumor.

Most people can't even fathom that. There is no way to imagine, sitting where you are right now, what it would be like to find out that news one week from now. And somehow, we think that because we can't imagine it, it won't happen. I'm certain that he didn't think this would happen to him. No one thinks it will happen to them.

Living on this earth, people are aware that life is not fair. People are aware that things may happen to them that they didn't want to happen to them. You know, things like getting injured in a car accident, having your house burglarized, getting laid off from a job at a terrible time. It seems that everyone knows and accepts that these things happen. It makes us angry, annoyed and frustrated. But it's pretty rare that events such as those I listed above lead people to shout out the proverbial, "life's not fair!" No, "life's not fair" is implicitly reserved for events that are unexpected, beyond comprehension, and typically not of temporary impact. Even though it's not "fair" to end up in a car accident, that falls within the fairness deductible of our life philosophy that things undeserved will happen. These day to day things exhaust the fairness deductible for which we allow, such that when the bigger things, more expensive to our soul, happen, we are in a position to cry out against the whole life picture.

As I was thinking about this issue of fairness yesterday, I thought for a minute about how wonderful the world would be if everything were fair. What would it be like if everyone got exactly what they deserved, and we could expect everything that happened based on a certain set of rules? Surprisingly, I came to the conclusion that the world would be devoid of any amount of compassion and filled with self-righteousness.

If you could go around constantly comparing yourself to those around you with an objective measure, you would become arrogant if you did well and resentful if you did not. You would not desire to help those who were not doing well because you would assume it's their own fault. If you were doing well, you certainly would have little need for anyone outside of yourself - God, friends, family - because you would be so self-righteous about your accomplishments. It would be a lonely place. If you were not doing well, you would hate those around you who did better than you and have very little motivation to improve; if your life is an open book to everyone else, they would know you were already doing poorly and you would always feel behind (the embarassment factor). There are many, many implications of this "completely fair" world.

(On a side note: When I relayed my thoughts to B on the matter, he pointed out that this is the current state (to some degree) of several Eastern countries who DO believe that your condition in this life is directly related to what you did in prior lives. It's interesting to see how different our societies are as a result; however, even though they believe in a degree of "fairness" I don't believe they think that life has a 100% correlation to what you do/don't do, so it's still not a perfect model.)

The most interesting thing I took from thinking about all this is that in a perfectly fair, yet sinful, world, human beings become everything God never wanted them to be: prideful, uncompassionate, uncharitable, resentful, unloving, self-serving, independent of relationships with each other and with Him. A sinful world seems to necessitate a lack of fairness in order to facilitate the traits that God wants us to have - humility, compassion, charity, love, dependence on one other and on God. (Why the world is necessarily sinful to begin with is a whole other topic.)

From the 80,000 foot level, I feel like this was a really interesting personal revelation. However, in our day to day lives when we are or someone we know is the victim of beyond-the-deductible unfairness, an 80,000 foot level world view is hardly consoling. Even if this world view makes perfect sense logically, the inevitable question of "Why me (or him/her)?" will arise. Even if we know these things happen, no one ever thinks it will happen to them.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

My last day at 31

I have been so busy lately that I practically forgot my birthday is tomorrow! I always get a bit pensive on my birthday about life and such (dramatically so, my husband would say), so it's only fitting that I do a post on my last day of being 31.

First, I just have to say that 32 sounds old! I just can't believe I'm two years into my thirties. That's practically 40, which is practically 50, which is practically time to retire and then...well...we all know what happens after that. Life seems to move by so quickly once you get beyond the teenage years and early 20s for some reason. I don't FEEL any older and that's what throws me off. But, when I really think about it, I am a very different person than I was even 3 years ago. A lot of that is due to the infertility experience, in both good and bad ways.

On the bad side, I think I have seen the worst of me. I had thoughts and feelings over the last 3 years I didn't think I was capable of thinking or feeling...things I wouldn't even want to admit in this blog. This is a side I wish I weren't capable of, but unfortunately I got to see it in the midst of depression and failures. I know more about me than I ever wanted to know.

On the good side, I have grown leaps and bounds as a person. I once read in a Dennis Prager book (or maybe heard on his radio show?) that he felt sorry for people who get to age 40 and have never faced a major life trial...because everyone will face trials later in life and if you aren't prepared for it by that time it will be exceedingly difficult. I think I laughed at that thinking that's what every sad bitter person would think to make themselves feel better. Now I completely understand what he was saying. I was NOT equipped to handle infertility, as few can be. But after it I feel equipped to handle quite a bit that would have crushed me before this. It has caused me to grow in many ways, but the following are the three biggest I think:
  • Humility. I have always been a proud person - proud of all that I have accomplished, who I am, etc. I had gotten to a point where I felt like I could accomplish anything I wanted and that it was all in my court. I have been humbled hugely by this. There are major life circumstances that put certain things out of your control and I realize how little control we really have over many things in life.
  • Empathy. Boy, can I relate to others going through tough times better now. I look back on things I've said to suffering people in the past and want to bury my face in a pillow now thinking of it. I feel like I could legitimately and comfortably talk to anyone no matter the crisis now, with a better understanding of how to talk to them.
  • Faith. I have seen the depths of doubt in God and the heights of faith through this. And yes - even before we started this whole surrogacy thing - I had gotten to a point of having the strongest faith of my life. Infertility triggered a need in me to go deeper than "Sunday morning Christianity" to really understand my faith at a deeper level. I've grown so much as a Christian during this time because of my triggered passion for reading, studying the Bible, attending theology classes and embracing my small group that meets weekly (which J and R are part of!).

My last birthday was filled with an underlying despair - another year getting older, another year not knowing if I'll keep getting older without having children. Tomorrow will be my first birthday in a while that I will feel pure joy and anticipation for the year ahead! By the next birthday, we should have 6 month old twins to love and cherish and with whom to all grow older. :)