From IVF to Surrogacy

Picture of our 4CA embryo aka Alexi. Transfer day 5/28/21

Hi! We have made it to the year we finally get pregnant! In February of 2021 I joined a Facebook group for surrogacy matching and that is where I happened to meet my future surrogate – though I didn’t know it at the time. What’s crazy is that I don’t use Facebook. I have an account, but haven’t been active on it since 2018. My neighbor and friend who also had her first baby via surrogacy shared this page with me because a few friends of hers had success matching. I joined the group and sort of just browsed people’s posts – like a creeper- but I never made a post myself. On February 18th, I randomly decided to check back on the page to see what sort of activity was taking place and that’s where I saw my surrogate’s post. Side note: for purposes of privacy (since we are no longer friends) I won’t be using her name, though many of you already know who it is. I just want to be clear that I’m not doing it to be rude! Anyway, so I decided to comment on her post because I really felt like she was ‘the one’ even though she was not local. However, I really didn’t think anything would come out of it because she clearly stated in her post that she wanted someone local. Long story short, we messaged back and forth and she was interviewing us and another couple, but ended up going with us. Hooray!

From that moment forward the wheels were set in motion. She first needed to be cleared by my RE because she had two prior failed transfers and we wanted to make sure that wouldn’t ‘disqualify’ her. Next up was an up-to-date pap by her OB and then she had to travel here to get her medical clearance by my RE. A medical clearance consists of an HSG (that scope we talked about earlier where they insert a small camera into your uterus to make sure there are no polyps or blockages), lab work and ultrasound. From the moment we matched in February to the medical clearance was about a week and a half. To give you a little perspective, everything in IVF world is time sensitive and time specific because these tests and procedures are done during a specific time during your period cycle. Her period happened to start at the perfect time so that we could do the medical clearance in March instead of needing to wait for April. I’m telling you, the way everything panned out so seamlessly, it’s impossible to not believe God had his hand in this from the very beginning. Medical clearance was a success, she started birth control and now we moved on to our next milestone – legal. When you pursue surrogacy part of the process is coming up with a legal contract where both parties agree to the terms. This is very important – especially if you don’t know each other outside of this agreement. We had our own attorney and she had her own. The legal paperwork can take a long time if you haven’t discussed your expectations upfront. One big example would be your views on termination, are you pro termination or against it. Also, there’s a lot of grey area when it comes to this topic, but something that is not grey is that the pregnancy would be terminated if it threatened the life of the surrogate. That is clearly non-negotiable. Another example in the current climate of our world, was our views on the covid vaccine. We asked each other a lot of questions prior to even getting to the legal portion so it went super quick. It can take people months to come to agreements if you haven’t talked about the ‘hot topics’ prior. We signed and sent over the contract end of April, so about 3 weeks from when we started! In May, she was ready to start her FET prep! A surrogate is basically doing exactly what the IM (intended mom) does for a transfer. Essentially, she is just taking your place- physically. She took estrogen, baby aspirin, prenatal, antibiotic, progesterone and an HCG trigger shot, since this is thought to increase chances of implantation. She had monitoring appointments which entails vaginal ultrasounds to check her lining and labs to check her estrogen and progesterone levels. There are about three monitor appointments until transfer day. A ‘good’ lining is anything above 8mm. Her’s was over 10mm at her last monitor appointment. The transfer took place on May 28th, here in Chicago at my clinic because that’s where my embryos were stored and my RE did the procedure. So we flew her and her sister out for the weekend. Everything that day went perfectly!

Doctors recommend being a couch potato the day of transfer, but then you can resume normal activity – within reason- the following day. Some doctors recommend bed rest up to 3 days post transfer to increase chances of implantation, but most now believe that’s outdated advice because not enough evidence supports this theory. So transfer day we ate all the snacks and watched tv and the following two days we did a super fun Chicago city tour. Leisure walking is also thought to be good for blood flow to the uterus. On Sunday our family met her and her sister and on Monday they flew back home. Now comes the dreaded TWW. She was adamant about not testing at home early, but she caved at 4dpt (four days post transfer) and had a very very faint positive. We were still skeptical though because she had done an HCG trigger shot. For those who don’t know what that is. HCG is the pregnancy hormone found in your blood. Some doctors believe that administering an hcg trigger shot the same time you start progesterone injections, it increases chances of implantation. The issue with this is that you may test too early and get a false positive because the test will pickup the HCG hormone from the shot. Nevertheless, she kept testing each day and the line was progressively getting darker so we knew it was a true positive. Her beta results came back insanely high which can make people wonder if it’s twins, but that is not the case. It just means the embryo is producing a lot of the hormone and it’s a strong sticky babe.

We were so excited! My husband was cautiously optimistic and didn’t want to believe it until we got our positive beta. This is an outcome of ptsd. Anyway, there was a brief scare the following week where she bled, but I was surprisingly very calm and knew it was a subchorionic hematoma. This is basically a blood clot that forms and is very common in IVF pregnancies. She went in for an ultrasound the following day (I believe it was around 5w3d) and that’s where we saw the yolk sac and confirmed SCH. In IVF pregnancies, you are monitored very early. In a spontaneous pregnancy you wouldn’t get an ultrasound until eight weeks or even later unless you have a history of miscarriage or other complications. Our first heartbeat appointment was at 7w6d and I flew out to California for this one. My anxiety was through the roof! This is a good place to bring up another pivotal ‘sign’ on my journey. In 2019, my mom and I started praying to St. Irene Chrysovalantou. She is known for performing many miracles and most commonly known for helping infertile couples conceive. She became ‘our’ saint. Praying for a cancer cure and praying for a baby. Fast forward to our appointment, the ultrasound tech comes out and her name was ‘Irene’. I smiled, knowing that all was well and thought to myself, “Thank you, St. Irene and thank you God.” I’m telling you folks, the signs are there you just need to be aware! (I love when I rhyme unintentionally)

Moving forward, the majority of first trimester went fairly smoothly aside from her really bad nausea and heartburn – which actually kept up throughout entire pregnancy because he had a full head of hair!❤️‍🔥 Second trimester went by super quickly and we took a one day trip to Cali for his 20-week anatomy scan. Everything looked perfect!

Third trimester is when we hit a little bit of a rocky road and that’s essentially when everything started to go south. I will talk about that in my next post because it’s also when my mom was diagnosed with a brain tumor and that was a big part of the third trimester for me. Thank you for listening and be back soon!

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