Our Infertility Story - IUI, Adoption, Embryo Adoption, IVF, Surrogacy

Friday, April 29, 2022

It's amazing to remember where we started on our journey to making a family and where it's taken us.

There are so many incredible details to our story but in honor of infertility awareness week I want to give you the highlights.

My husband and I had our first date in August of 2003 and were married in September 2009.  At the time I was working as a nurse and in midwifery school.  In December 2012 we decided it was time to start a family.  I remember being so convinced that the first time would work and couldn't believe it when my period started.  Now 10 years later, having never had a spontaneously conceived pregnancy, I have to laugh at my naivety. 

After 1 year of trying we had the usual initial workup that really didn't show anything.  I had requested a lining check just because my periods were so light and in Nov 2013 had a 5 cm complex cyst removed from my left ovary.  The cyst turned out to be an endometrioma.

Immediately following that surgery we had our first IUI which failed just before Christmas that year.  We were heart broken of course but ready to try again.  We started another round in January 2014 and just 4 days prior to the scheduled IUI our lives were turned upside down.  There are so many incredible details to this story and I just can't do it justice here.  But here are the highlights:

Mid-injection text asking us if we wanted to adopt a baby - A sermon reminding us that we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength (Philippians 4:13) - a 2 week whirlwind of home studies, background checks and fingerprinting - 2 weeks of not telling our families ANYTHING about potentially bringing home a baby -  then meeting our daughter with my husband on Facetime stuck in Ohio for work - and now my sweet first born is 8 years old!!  For the rest of Brennan's Adoption story read here. 

With a newborn and infertility I don't think we necessarily kept "trying" but we did nothing to prevent for the next 2 years.  My cycle kept showing up every month and I knew we were going to need some help.  My antral follice count prior to IUI was 11. My AMH never quite matched what they saw on ultrasound so I've since forgotten that but know it wasn't great.  After my endometrioma removal my left ovary was never seen again and my antral follice count dropped to 4.

Embryo adoption had already been placed on our hearts and knew a stim cycle and tradition IVF just wasn't for us.  When Brennan was 1 1/2 we were gifted embryos from incredible selfless couple in Texas.  Just after her 2nd birthday we started meds for our first frozen embryo transfer.  The cycle was flawless until transfer day. They thawed the highest graded embryo of the 4 embryos we were gifted and the straw was empty!  They thawed the next best and my incredible "baby snowflake" Blake is now 5 years old! Here is a little bit more information on Embryo Adoption.

We were literally gifted 2 daughters. The first through domestic adoption and the second through embryo adoption.  We figured what better way to pay it forward then to help another family build their family. Enter surrogacy.  At first my husband said "hell no" and after months of research started to get on board.  

Our first journey was incredible but it did take us 3 transfers to get pregnant.  Clara is now 1 and took her first steps last week!!  She has amazing parents and wonderful older brother.  The entire experience was so rewarding we had to do another.

We are now 11 weeks along carrying sweet Baby Bubble Gum as my girls have affectionately named him. I am proof that there are A LOT of ways to make a family and the most important thing to remember is to never lose hope. The women I have and am carrying for have had hysterectomies and didn't have a choice but to seek third party help to continue growing their families. 

A friend of mine reminded me early on in our journey that it's ok to pray for God to grant my heart's desires.  The morning that Brennan's birth mom signed her relinquishment papers the bible verse on my scheduled reading plan for 2014 was Psalms 20:4.  Another gift from God, a peaceful heart!  

Then when I first started to read about embryo adoption I came across a blog highlighting another woman's journey to motherhood.  Her blog had used the same verse!!  It was in that moment that I knew we would be building out family in yet another non-traditional way. 

I hope these versus give you peace and that no matter where you are in your journey that you never give up and continue to walk through every open door.  And remember, if it's not open yet, it's ok to knock!!  God will find a way.


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9 Week Update

Saturday, April 16, 2022

 I've gotten several messages lately asking how I'm doing which means I'm over due for an update.  We are 9 weeks and chugging along!  We had heartbeat confirmation at just over 6 weeks and repeat checks at 8 and almost 9 weeks.  Look at this adorable necklace IM (intended mom) got me for good luck prior to first heartbeat check.  A good friend of hers got her the same necklace for her birthday as good luck prior to transfer.  It's a horseshoe and baby elephant and I wear it every day. 

 It's kind of neat having this blog to refer back to and to be able to compare pregnancies. With my keeper, Blake, I had a few weeks of mild intermittent nausea.  With my 1st surro babe I started with nausea 8 hours a day at THREE AND A HALF weeks!! That continued until about 16 weeks.  With this pregnancy I have a few hours of nausea every day starting around 3 pm and continuing most of the evening. It's pretty mild and I've only thrown up a few time.  Truth be told I had reflux surgery and can't really vomit so I just dry-heave violently.  But it hasn't happened often.  My IM phrased it perfectly and said she hopes it's just the right amount of nausea and she's so right. Just enough to provide reassurance but not so much that I'm miserable.  

6 weeks
8 weeks

 

 It's been a great journey so far and I'm so honored to be able to carry for such a sweet deserving family.  

Now a shameless plug.  My office, Greenville Midwifery Care, has been nominated for Best of the Upstate for another year!!  But we need your help with daily votes until the end of April.  

PLEASE click this link to vote and go back and vote every day.  We have an amazing birth community and couldn't provide such great midwifery care without such incredible local support.

https://Greenvilleonline.secondstreetapp.com/og/f7a71865-3896-4e13-b894-01e4e5ab575f/gallery/328077051

Photo of me helping a sweet mama with her rock star water birth


When I was pregnant with Blake her nickname was baby snowflake (like a snowflake every adopted embryo is frozen & unique)… last journey the girls nicknamed her baby butterfly… current contenders for this little guy are cherry, little bob and Harold. Help! 


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We’re PREGNANT!!!!

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

​My Intended Parents have had 2 retrievals but only had 1 genetically normal embryo. It was very highly rated and the Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE) quoted us a 70% chance of success. We did the most aggressive protocol, extra screening with an additional ultrasound and extra blood work x2. The transfer was flawless and at 5 1/2 days post transfer (dpt) I got my first positive pregnancy test!! My first quantitative HCG on 11 dpt came back at 221!!! 48 hours later we increased to 618!! These are great numbers. 


We are scheduled for one more quantitative HCG on 3/21 and an ultrasound on March 28th (6 weeks 2 days)…. Praying this baby keeps growing!!! 


I don’t know if fertile people do this but us infertile people don’t believe a positive urine pregnancy test when we see it so we test daily and scrutinize every line comparing it the last to make sure it’s getting darker. Here’s our great progression (and now you all know I’m crazy, if you didn’t already know)






The Intended Mom wasn’t sure if she wanted to know about a positive home test or just wait for the confirmation blood work. I waited a few days to ensure it was getting darker then surprised her with the good news during her trip to Jamaica. 






We are all thrilled!! Please keep praying, so many more hurdles to come. Thanks for being on this journey along side us. 

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Transfer done! - 5th time but a new and amazing experience

Friday, March 4, 2022

Being my 5th transfer I thought I knew exactly what to experience. This transfer was extra magical.  

Gift Basket I made for the IPs
Lucky Transfer Socks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The day started with a coffee date with the intended mom. I was so grateful for the time we got to spend together. Conversation was easy, we have so much in common and I could already start to feel the bond growing. And look at these adorable lucky transfer socks she got for me!

 

We headed to the clinic and IM and I were brought back pretty quickly. They require a full bladder to help force the uterus to lay flat and make the transfer easier.  Mine wasn't full enough so the chugging began.  80 ounces in and it was finally time. Now here's where it gets cool.

For the previous transfers the embryologist just brings the thawed embryo into the room in the straw and is ready for insertion.  You get to see a photo but that's it. But this clinic was different. They bring the embryo into the room in a newborn isolette. We got to see the embryo in real time under the microscope hatching in it's little petri dish. The embryo was REALLY hatching!!  We got to watch them draw the embryo up into the straw and then be transferred. Seeing the embryo in real time was magical! 

After that my husband and I headed back to the hotel to relax. I had the best nap of my life (thank you Valium) then met the intended parents for dinner. We were so grateful for more time together and we got to meet their sweet (almost) 3 year old. We genuinely enjoyed our time together and really look forward to growing our bond as we embark on this journey together. 

Having gone through 2 previous failed transfers I am always a bit guarded but this just feels right.  The transfer day was amazing, the embryo looked great, the doctor was very happy with the transfer. 

While we hold our breaths until the beta HCG 11 days after transfer I'm feeling really positive! Now we pray!!










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Transfer update

Monday, February 28, 2022

The clinic wanted us to wait until my last surro baby was 1 before transferring for our second journey. So we are transferring Thursday March 3rd, a week before her 1st birthday.  

This protocol has been very similar to my last (successful) transfer per my request. We started a long acting Lupron for endometriosis suppression back in November.  Did 1 shot each month for 2 months and enjoyed hundreds of hot-flashes.  So grateful to do that part in winter!  Then this month we started the pretty typical protocol (oral estrogen, injectable progesterone or progesterone in oil/PIO injections).  We had a baseline lining check to make sure everything was suppressed and an "endometrial scratch" which is thought to increase the chances of implantation.  

During my routine lining check 1 week prior to transfer the lining was nice and fluffy (similar to my cycle with my keeper) but the sonographer couldn't document that it had the trilaminar or triple stripe appearance. I began to stress as this clinic required a trilaminar appearance for transfer. They decided to bring me to their clinic (2 hours away) to see the lining for themselves and to decide on next steps.

I was panicking!  I couldn't believe that the 2 months of menopause and endometrial scratch (not terrible but not fun) could have been for nothing!!  I was devastated. I drove the 2 1/2 hour drive the next day and stayed over night to not risk traffic in the morning. On my way I listened to surrogacy podcasts interviewing different surrogates.  One of the surrogates that was interviewed had a similar experience and her 2 day recheck showed a perfect lining which then turned into a successful transfer. I was in tears.  My mother-in-law would call this a little God wink.. He gave me just enough to calm my nerves and remind me that He is in control.

The next morning the Intended Mom (IM) met me at the clinic.  We headed into the ultrasound together and got the best news.  My lining was the perfect thickness and pattern and we were cleared for transfer!!  The nurse gave me my first IM PIO injection at the clinic. Hers has hurt ever since. Fortunately my husband is a pro at this point and they have been going much better since he took over. We head back to Georgia Wednesday afternoon for a Thursday transfer and then back to Greenville Friday.  I can't wait to hopefully spend a little time with our Intended Parents and then get this baby on board!!  

So grateful for my in-laws watching the girls and my neighbors taking care of the dog while we are gone.  It really does take a village!

Prayers for a sticky baby please!!



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Here we go again, again!!

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

6 years ago today we traveled to Charleston South Carolina for our first ever frozen embryo transfer (FET).  Blake, formerly know as Baby Snowflake, was our adopted embryo and the first baby that I carried. 

This time 2 years ago we were about to have our second FET for my journey as a gestational carrier. That transfer failed, then COVID lock down, and eventually we got pregnant after our third transfer in June 2020. My sweet surro-baby ("Baby Butterfly") is now about to turn 1!!!  We have had such an amazing experience before during and after the birth. We've seen the family several times since then and are so grateful for their friendship. 

 


Which brings us to now. I could probably give you 15 reasons why we have come to this decision but I'll just go with #1.  We had an amazing experience with our first journey and I just HAD to do it again. 

We decided to go with an agency this time... can you say surrogacy concierge?? We have matched, passed medical clearance, signed contracts and started meds. I've been in medically induced menopause for the last 2 months. We have our baseline ultrasound in a few days then start meds for transfer in March!! 

Our new IP's (Intended Parents) are awesome!!  We've only met in person once but have chatted over the phone and through zoom as well. I look forward to seeing them again for our upcoming transfer. They remind me a lot of our previous IP's.  She too was able to carry her first child but had complications and ended up with a life saving hysterectomy. I have been blessed with fairly uncomplicated pregnancies and births and am grateful to be able to share this part of myself again with someone in need.

We appreciate all of the love and support from each of you and ask for your prayers for this upcoming journey.

Bring it on!!

 


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Surrogacy Birth Story

Thursday, March 25, 2021

I don't know how my words here can accurately convey the emotions that I felt during the birth and even now. My journey as a Gestational Carrier has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.  I'm fighting back the tears just thinking about what we've been through the last year and a half and now a sweet baby girl is home safely with her loving & devoted family.  God gave us first the gift of adoption then embryo adoption and it feels so good to be able to give back just a little bit of me as a gestational carrier. 

I had a few mildly elevated blood pressures at home around 39 1/2 weeks.  I had no symptoms of pre-eclampsia and when I checked my blood pressure at the office to confirm it was elevated one day and normal the next.  The up and down bought us a little more time as the intended parents (and intended big brother) recovered from a stomach bug.   We finally made the decision to proceed with induction before the blood pressure caused more problems. I had my membranes swept a few times that week (an attempt to naturally encourage labor) and worked with 2 incredible doulas to try to encouraged baby butterfly to get into a good position for labor. My awesome chiropractor worked me in for some Webster technique and pressure points to encourage labor as well. Ultimately we made the decision to induce at 39.6.

The morning we finally made this decision was very emotional for me. I really didn't want an induction but knew that my desire for natural labor wasn't as important as the health and well being of the baby... and myself. We showed up to the hospital some time after lunch to get things started.  Having an amazing care team helped to ease my anxiety. I couldn't have asked for a better midwife, nurse or doula. We got the pitocin started around 2 pm. I was already contracting pretty often when I arrived but nothing painful or meaningful. Fortunately my blood pressure was stone cold normal the entire labor.

My doula arrived just before 3 pm to start some baby positioning boot camp with me.  We did this for a few hours then relaxed until the intended mom arrived.  Once she arrived I requested that my midwife break my water to get the contractions more effective. I was in a good pattern at that point but the contractions were still very mild. 

I was 4 cm and comfortable when my water was broken.  From that point forward each and every contraction increased in intensity.  It didn't take long for things to really take off.  I got checked not long after rupture and was already 6 cm. I spent what felt like an eternity contracting in the bathroom while the tub was being filled. I planned to get in the shower but transition was coming quickly. I remember being too hot for the shower and feeling like I was going to faint, puke and poop all at the same time. I felt like I was starting to lose control of the pain.  Contractions were on top of each other and I could barely move between.  My doula didn't leave my side and for that I am so grateful.  I don't think I could have done it without her.

At that point I asked to be checked again and was 7 cm.  I asked for an epidural and they knew I was serious.  Around that time someone recommended we turn off the pitocin.  I wish we had thought of that sooner and feel like I could have stuck with my plan for a natural birth if we had but I feel like things happened the way they did for a reason.  The midwife could tell I was going to change quickly and started opening the delivery table and they called the intended dad to the hospital for the birth.  

Soon after I asked for it the CRNA came to the room to prep me for the epidural. When he started to explain the procedure in detail I yelled "I'm a midwife, just put it in!".  Unfortunately the anesthesiologist had a hard time placing the epidural. I remember feeling like I literally could not survive one more contraction without it.  My husband held me up and kept me from falling off the bed during what felt like the longest epidural placement of all time.  3 attempts later he finally got it in. I must have scared the CRNA because he dosed me to my eye-balls and I felt absolutely nothing even hours after the birth. 

The intended dad came in right after the epidural was done and I felt completely at peace with my decision.  I think if I would have continued without the epidural it would have been a very different experience for everyone, not just me.  And not in a good way.  The birth was calm and exciting and I think my comfort helped everyone to enjoy it more.  Granted I was 9 cm right after the epidural so things truly were happening fast but the epidural gave us all a minute to breathe. 

30 minutes later I could tell it was time. The intended mom changed into a gown to get ready for skin to skin and threw on a pair gloves to help catch the baby.  I only pushed for 2 or 3 contractions.  At the last second I asked for a mirror so I could experience the birth as well... as a midwife giving birth with a very dense epidural I felt left out not knowing what was going on.  I could see her crowning and as soon as her head came out I could tell she looked exactly like her big brother.  Born into her mother's hands at 9:54 pm.  

She came skin to skin with me and we were all amazed with how much she really did look like her brother. After several minutes the intended dad cut the cord and I was able to hand her to the intended mom.  THIS was the moment I looked forward to the most.  I did something for this couple that not many people would or could do.  I wasn't in this for the bond to the baby. I wasn't in this for the adventure of raising another child.  I was in this for them.  I was in this for the joy that I could give to the parents when I handed them their baby.  I'm crying as I write this because I am just so grateful that I was given this opportunity to change someone else's life in this way. The intended mom wheeled a chair up to be closer to me while she held the baby skin to skin.  She looked me in the eyes and said "I can't believe you did this for us".  THAT was every bit of justification that I needed.  That 1 little sentence made it all worth while. 

We spent the next 2 hours of recovery together.  We took turns holding her and just enjoyed being together.  When we moved to postpartum the intended parents were in the room beside us.  It was midnight and I was ready to get some sleep.  The next morning they came to our room to visit and we spent another few hours just hanging out. I am so grateful for the time we got to spend all together.  

As we rehashed the birth experience everyone shared the same feeling... the doula was amazing!!  No one really knew anything about doulas when I suggested prenatally that I wanted to hire one.  Not just any doula. THE doula.  Julie Byers was a doula I had worked with many times over the last 2 years.  I tell my patients that she is made of lavender.  Just her presence in a room can change the entire atmosphere.  I could not imagine birth without her by my side.  My husband said his favorite thing about the labor was the doula.  When the baby's grandparents came to my house they had even heard about the amazing doula.  Moral of the story - get a doula!!

The baby ending up spending the next 4 days in the hospital due to jaundice.  When she was finally released the intended parents and one set of grandparents brought the baby to my house to meet my girls.  It was so incredible to see the joy in their eyes when they finally got to meet her.  We spent several hours just hanging out. The grandparents played with my girls while everyone got a chance to hold the baby.  The intended parents Facetimed their 2 year old so the girls could say hi.  My 7 year old decided to read a book to the baby while her Mimi got to meet the baby as well.  I am so proud of how my girls handled every bit of this journey.  

I've dreaded even writing this blog post because that means this journey is over.  I know our friendship will continue and really believe we will always be in each other's lives.  It has been the most rewarding experience and I hope that I will get a chance to do it again.  I could have never made it through this journey without the love and support of my husband.  I can't even begin to express what it means to me to have such a supportive and encouraging partner by my side.  I truly couldn't have done it without him and the sacrifices that he made for me. 

Baby Butterfly Born 3/10/21 at 9:54 PM

Weight: 7 lb 13 oz

Height: 21 in 

After Blake's 31 hour labor I'm grateful for my 8 hour induction with only 4 hours of actual labor.

If you've read all of this thank you for sticking with me.  Now for picture overload. 


Dad in the background is THE BEST!!

















https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1GOQKucrUigT9O8YxHb_6GBkh5p2L7tFo




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