My infertility story starts at birth. I was born with a vascular malformation in the left side of my abdomen. Over the years, through puberty and hormonal changes, the malformation grew. It grew so big that it eventually took over half my abdomen. My spleen, the outer lining of my stomach and all of the abdominal muscles, both internal and external, were taken over by feet of extra veins. Growing up I'd have outward bleeds regularly just from playing as a kid does. Eventually it was removed from the surface, but it continued to grow inside. It got so large that in my 20's I looked to be 9 months pregnant on half of me, the other half being a size 5.
Although no one had ever mentioned it to me as a child, because they really didn't know and it was to early to even discuss, I always had this feeling that me birthing a child on my own just wasn't realistic. I've always been pretty intuitive and commonsensical, so it just didn't make sense to me. I had all this extra vascular mess growing inside me, where would the baby fit? Would it pinch off the blood supply and hurt me? Would it tear through my abdominal muscles even more? Even though instinctively I knew I would never birth a baby, I still hoped..
In 5th grade I met a blonde haired girl named Jennifer. We became the best of friends and hung out all the time. She became my sister more than my friend. She was always my rock and the most responsible, loving, selfless and reasonable friend I ever had. When we were young, We would talk about being mommies one day and I would say to her, "I wanna be a mommy, but I don't think I ever will be. I don't think my body will allow it". Her response was perfectly naive and awesome, "it's okay, I'll just have an extra one for you". Never in a million years did we think she'd be eating her words or that that would even be possible.
Fast forward to age 20. Jennifer and I moved in together as many young people do. They say you should never live with your friends. Guess what, that is a true statement. We ended up breaking our lease about 6 months after moving in together. I had an awful boyfriend who I was afraid of and he came between us. I was too "young and dumb" to realize it at the time and she was too upset to see I was trapped. Because we were 20 we were both very stubborn and we never spoke again... for 13 years! I had lost my best friend and my sister and that was that.
I eventually moved to California at 25 and met the handsomest man of my dreams. His name is Tony. He met me when my abnormality was at its worst. I looked 9 months pregnant and I was full of anxiety and rage about feeling and looking different. I was insecure and unhappy, and generally just in my 20's which can be rough. He saw me through all of that and fell in love with me anyways.
I should mention, aside from looking bizarre, my side has caused me a lot of pain throughout my life. I'd say I have been living, on average, at what most people would consider a 7+ in pain level since I can remember. There have been days when it's not too bad and days where I am literally disabled. Never with a warning or clue as to why or when a flare up will occur. I am generally very tired and feel uncomfortable at least part of every day. I have never allowed my condition to hold me back though. I try not to gripe about it much to others either. I am an adventure seeker and never turn down a challenge. But, with that being said, I also sometimes over do it.
I was working for Trader Joe's, 8+ hours on my feet, lifting, pushing and pulling hundreds of pounds a day when I thought I got a hernia. It turns out it was just my side telling me enough is enough. After several doctor appointments and referrals, I was sent to a vascular anomalies clinic at UCSF with the top surgeon for such weirdness. It was determined that I needed another surgery. Boy what a God send that was! In 2011, at 29, I was finally given a life changing surgery to remove over 3 lbs of vein tissue and reconstruct my disfigurement. I finally looked normal! Unfortunately after 8 hours of surgery and the maximum amount of blood transfusions they were unable to get everything. So for now, it continues to grow, but I think I still look pretty good. I will eventually need another operation and it may never be completely eradicated. I still have pain but it's slightly lesser than it was previously. But pain is more easily managed when you don't feel like people are staring at you or whispering all the time, so I'd consider this operation a major success.
In 2013 Tony and I got married! So, what comes next? The baby carriage, right? Not exactly... After my operation we were given the go ahead to try and make babies as most people do. I thought, Holy cow! I was wrong, I CAN make a baby like a normal person! So for a good 2 years we tried... and tried... and tried. I had many false alarms as my body would skip cycles for months at a time only to have no baby made inside of me. As much as I wanted to get pregnant I was also scared to. My intuition was telling me I just shouldn't be trying. It was weird and frustrating and emotional. So in 2015 I returned to my surgeon and had a peek inside again. About 11% of what was removed had already regenerated. After several blood tests, an MRI, and him presenting my case at Grand Rounds, I was told, "we can't tell you not to try and have a baby, but your life, the baby's life, or at least your quality of life are at risk". That was one giant slap in the face! I had a moment where I thought, we are trying anyways, but I knew that wasn't the right option. Obviously my body wasn't allowing me to get pregnant for a reason and what good what it be to either not be around for my child's life, leaving my husband alone to be a single parent, or I'd be struggling so much it would take away from being a parent at all and give my child a poor quality of life. It's like My body just knew to protect me from getting pregnant. But, I had gotten my hopes up that my luck had turned and now I had to grieve this loss again?! This loss that I had already accepted as a child and then put to rest because my doctor said, "you can do it". You'd think that I would have been prepared for the news with all that lifetime expectancy and preparation of not being able to conceive, but you can't be prepared for the moment they confirm your biggest nightmare and solidify your fate. I finally knew for sure that it would never happen. I'd never have legitimate morning sickness, feel the kick of a baby's foot in my ribs, see an alien squirming around inside my belly, or feel the glorious experience of child birth. People who have been through it themselves probably wouldn't agree with the glory I see in it, but that's because, in my opinion, they are taking it for granted. I'd never have that surprise moment with our parents and friends, like, "guess what? You're gonna be a grandparent or aunt or uncle". My dream was squashed and then I felt like I was expected to just deal with it.
Most people don't speak openly about infertility or miscarriages. And if you haven't lived it yourself you can never understand the hot dagger to the heart that is that reality. As someone going through it you want to be open minded and understanding about others ignorance to how it feels for you but it's impossible. It feels like the world is out to get you and now you see nothing but babies, babies, babies. So of course weeks after we are dealt this terrible blow we are informed that my brother in law and sister in law are expecting AND two of my childhood friends are as well! Of course both my husband and I are elated for our family and friends but our wound is so fresh that it stings quite a bit. Naturally we congratulated them and wished them well, but of course those feelings of jealousy, resentment, anger, sadness, frustration, depression, fear and grief all were standing by to overwhelm us and not always allow us to say or do the right thing.
I'd like to take a second to talk about the men in these situations, it's as if society feels that only the woman grieves the loss to be able to bear a child. This is absolutely false! A lot of men grow up envisioning having a son or daughter of their own. They imagine a complete life with a family to take care of. They want to pass on their genes, their name, their legacy. This is the case with my husband at least. When I came home from the doctor and explained to him that our dream of making a baby wasn't going to happen he cried. We cried. It was really emotional and both of our hearts broke at the same time. The moment I had to break that news was one of the worst moments of my life. I anticipated the worst, but he had always been so optimistic that anything was possible. Having to see your husband cry in disappointment is crushing. I immediately felt like it was all my fault even though I knew I didn't do anything wrong. There was nothing I could do to change the fate and no way to console his heart or he mine. He couldn't have been anymore sweet and gentle in regards to how I felt, but it was obvious I wasn't alone with this loss. I mention this because for me it felt like no one other than me was truly comforting or considerate of his feelings at the time. News that people wanted to share was always directed through him as if because he couldn't get pregnant anyways, it didn't hurt him deeply. He isn't the type to ripple the water much so I know he never fully voiced his pain about the situation.
Our loss was overshadowed by the excitement for our friends and families new beginnings and it seemed like if we were anything but butterflies and puppy dog kisses about their journeys then we were being inconsiderate. But to us it felt like others weren't being considerate of our situation. Again, unless you've personally experience the loss you cannot truly understand. I guess both sides of the coin were feeling the same way. If they shared too much it stabbed the knife in deeper for us, but if we asked to know less we didn't care and were being selfish in their eyes. It was a hard and confusing time. We did care and were very excited for our loved ones, we wanted to know about their journey and be involved, but within the parameters of our comfort. However, it seemed like once I expressed that, I was almost cut out of the experiences all together. I'm sure they were trying to respect my feelings but sometimes it felt more alienating making our loss even more magnified. I get that in this situation there is no right thing to say or do. It's a delicate issue so it was probably easy to offend our sensitive nerves, but one friend said, "I don't even want this baby, you can have it if you want", it wasn't funny or making light of a crummy situation. I know that this was not an entirely honest statement and that this person thought they were being funny, but that couldn't have hurt worse. I'm over here unable to ever conceive a child and you accidentally got pregnant and don't even want it!? Or there was my friend who was so afraid to tell me she was pregnant that she waited until she was almost 6 months along to tell me. She was ashamed that she was pregnant with a child she wasn't planning for and felt bad that we had been trying and wanted nothing more than to have a baby all while she was not even sure how she'd manage. I realize no one knows how to act or what to say in these situations which is why we should be more open about infertility and miscarriages. Having so many different babies entering the world at the same time also just made it that much harder. Six months after our devastating blow we welcomed to the world our handsome and incredibly amazing nephew, plus two more babies of my friends. I actually dealt with these births better than expected but of course I was a little, or a lot, jealous.
In September 2014. After years of searching I found my old best friend Jennifer on Facebook. I wrote her an instant message basically saying that I thought of her often and would love to catch up if she was open to it. I said I understood if she wasn't interested, but that regardless of our past I held her and her family close to my heart and wished her well. I had no idea if she'd ever respond but I was okay going out on a limb and waiting to see what happened. (Let me add that when I reached out to her, I had forgotten about the promise she had made me to "have an extra one" when we were just children.) She responded the next morning! She was thrilled to hear from me and wanted to catch up ASAP. We messaged back and forth for a bit and in her third message she said that she had told her husband that if I ever entered her life again she intended on following through with the promise she had made as kids if necessary. At that time we were still trying and had no idea that our future wouldn't include Tony and I becoming parents naturally. In April of 2015 Jennifer and I got together for the first time in 13 years while I was on a visit home (Arizona). It was as if not a day had gone by in our relationship. We were sad that we had missed out on so many milestones in each other's lives; marriages, her children, my surgery, etc., but we were anxious to make up for lost time. During that dinner she mentioned again that if we ever needed a surrogate she would happily and willing love to do that for us. That was incredible considering all we'd been through. Plus she had never met my husband or I hers. But some friendships are unbreakable. None of the past mattered to either of us except that we were sisters plain and simple and either of us would do anything for the other. Including her carrying our baby if necessary. She and I continued to chat sporadically after that dinner but weren't back to BFF status yet. Her offer sat in the back of my head for just in case, but at the same time was so far fetched I couldn't imagine what would have actually happened.
So now here we are in Mid 2015, its 2 years since we started trying to make a baby. I am missing my period left and right, having major pregnancy symptoms, but I'm not getting pregnant. I return to my surgeon and I'm given the devastating news. After a few months of looking at our options we have decided to take the plunge and explore surrogacy. We realize it's really expensive with no guarantees but we are really optimistic people who, like I said before, always welcome a challenge. We were introduced to one of the top fertility specialists in our area (Sonoma County) and sat down to chat about the basics. After our appointment with her we were apprehensive. You see she had explained that we would HAVE to go through an agency to find a surrogate. I wasn't sold on even asking Jennifer to be our surrogate at this point, but dealing with a complete stranger freaked me out. I'm a control freak and felt like I would be out of control with a stranger. Plus the idea of surrogacy is just scary to begin with. Will they eat the right things? How is their home life? Are their intentions good? Do they have a history of drug use or mental illness? The list of questions seemed endless. We weren't completely comfortable with this doctor but only wanted the best. We decided to sit on the information for a bit. A few weeks later the doctor called to tell me that our insurance would be better used at UCSF! Obviously, they had just changed my life with that surgery and my surgeon worked there so I was instantly relieved. I trusted that hospital with my life, literally, so I knew that was what was right. Obviously fate or God or whatever you wanna call it stepped in to get us to the right place.
We saw our new fertility doctor in January 2016 and she was was so thorough, kind and gentle. She also told us it was complete BS about HAVING to go through an agency and that as long as our surrogate candidate met the criteria we were welcome to ask anyone. That day in the car on our way home Tony said," well, are you gonna ask Jennifer"? My response was, "No way"! I know she offered, but it's one thing to say, "hey, I'll have a baby for you", but it's a different thing to actually do it! Plus we lived in different states. Logistically it seemed crazy and I didn't think it was appropriate to IM, text, email, or even chat on the phone about the proposition. If I was goin to ask I had to do it when I was ready and in person. At this point we haven't even been friends again for a whole year! We weren't hanging out or even talking regularly so I didn't want to risk screwing up this friendship I had missed so much and for so long and had just gotten back. That day I posted a cryptic message to Facebook saying something along the lines of," today is the beginning of a beautiful future for the Davidson's". Jennifer, even having not been in my life for 13 years, knows me all to well. Later that evening I got an IM asking, "surrogacy or adoption"? She didn't even know that we had gone to the doctor! I responded saying that we were going to go the surrogate route but hadn't found one yet and left it at that. She replied, "I will keep you in my prayers". Obviously, she hadn't immediately said, "Great, when are you knocking me up"? So I assumed she had changed her mind. I planned on just searching elsewhere. I was a little disappointed but also completely understood. Pregnancy is a life threatening ailment. She has a husband and two kids, she couldn't put that at risk for me!
About 5 days later I was at work. I owned my own skin care business and was super busy. I always checked my phone throughout the day because clients would call or text me there regularly. I had a few minutes between clients so I opened up my messenger, seeing it had a message. It was Jen. In a nut shell she said that she and her husband Rick, whom I had never met, had discussed it at length and that if we needed a surrogate she would be happy to do it. They were 100% in if we were. I broke down in tears and proceeded to tell all my clients about the offer the rest of the day. I responded to her without even talking to Tony saying that it wouldn't be right with anyone else and that she was the ideal girl for the job. Her response was, "Good, I'd be pissed if you let someone else do it"! (Holy cow, we have a surrogate! We might actually get to become parents!) I went home and told Tony and we were ecstatic. But where to begin... I wanted to make sure Rick and Jen fully understood the process, the risks, the legality, etc. I wanted her to double check with him that he was really okay with this because realistically we wouldn't be able to do it without him.
When you suffer from any disease it's sometimes hard to be optimistic. My whole entire life I had been disappointed by my body, so approaching the journey to IVF I had my doubts. I knew Jennifer would do fine. She has two beautiful children whom she had happy, healthy pregnancies with, but my body is a mess. I was sure my eggs would be duds or that they would find some terrible genetic blip that would prevent this from actually happening. My birth defect was always kind of a mystery. It's not genetic, I was just the lucky lottery winner. I was worried that I would undoubtedly pass this on and that held me back a bit from immediately jumping into the process. I didn't want to pass this on by chance and have my child have to suffer as I have. But as anyone who has been through IVF knows they test you and psych test you and then test you some more. I saw a geneticist and had so much blood checked that I finally felt like I could really actually do this. So in March of 2016 I began our journey to surrogacy and what an exhausting yet beautiful journey it has been thus far.
Now we are getting the ball rolling but there is a major disconnect, I have never met Rick, Jen has never met Tony and the husbands have never met each other! In April 2016 we bridged the gap. It turns out Tony and Rick are brothers from another mother. They instantly hit it off and eventually end up communicating way more than Jen and I do! Obviously this is meant to be. (And if I didn't mention that they love to fish together I'm sure they'd be offended).
I then began birth control and the dreaded injections. I was lucky enough to have to get 4 injections a night in my stomach unlike the ACTUAL lucky people who get away with one. This was not my favorite. There is just something unsettling about shooting up in your car or the bathroom of a restaurant. Not to mention it friggin hurts and the bruises! I rapidly began to feel pregnant, or at least what I assume pregnancy feels like. I was also somewhat crazy. You see I had never been on birth control in my life. My birth defect has always been triggered by hormones, one of the reasons they suggested not getting pregnant. So introducing extra estrogen into my body was physically and emotionally painful. I sometimes couldn't walk across the room. It was exhausting, I wanted to nap all the time, and mentally it was turning me into a complete bitch! Plus I was still owning and operating my business. I was going to the doctor almost daily and it's a 2 hour drive into and out of San Francisco for me every time. They took my blood, I peed in cups and they probed me until they decided it was time. The day after Mother's Day 2016, May 9th to be exact, we retrieved 21 eggs and 15 of them fertilized! I couldn't believe there were so many. After the incubation period we were left with 6 beautiful little embryos ranging from 5AA quality to 4AB. (6AA is the best, so you can see we had some high quality eggies). We will take that! I was mind blown. My body has always failed me, but not this time! We could hardly wait to share the news but even with the great quality and amount, you can't control the doubt and fear that overtakes you. One of my best friends had just undergone IVF and it didn't work so I knew how difficult it would be if it didn't work for us.
We decided to invite Jen and Rick up to Sonoma County for some adult time before we went through with the transfer. We needed to build a more solid friendship and bond and we did just that. We wine tasted, fished, played games and rapidly rebuilt a solid friendship, all four of us. We began to see each other almost monthly, them coming to us or us going o AZ. Their children became like an instant niece and nephew. It was amazing to have my best friend in the whole world back and that our families not only loved each other, but were about to be tied together eternally. It was also very comforting because if you ever met Jen and Rick you'd see that they are two of the most loving people on the planet. The love that they have for their children and others is remarkable, but the love they have for each other is absolutely beautiful. They have been together over 10 years and still act like honeymooners. That's the kind of environment anyone would want their baby being baked in. Another dynamic we are super grateful for through all of this is that Jennifer's parents, who knew me well as a kid, are also just as loving and supportive. It can't be easy to have your child risking her life for someone else, but I know they couldn't be more proud. Jennifer's mom and I talk often and she is so thoughtful. It's cool that our child will end up with an extra family. We are so lucky. I also wanna add that to enhance our bonding experience Jen and I got matching Surrogacy symbol tattoos to give us good luck and to just represent our sisterhood in general. Whether or not it worked this experience was gonna change our lives as a team forever. She got hers on her ribs so that when she took belly pics for us we would see it.
Over the next few months Jennifer was evaluated and poked at and given medications and specific instructions to prepare her womb for our pregnancy. There were appointments that Jen, myself and both of our husbands went to, some where it was just us girls, or us girls with one or the other husband. The boys were both always disappointed if they had to miss a single moment of the action, but Jen and I always had each other. We have been so blessed to have such great support from our spouses. This is a crazy journey to embark upon so it's absolutely necessary to have that support. I have to say seeing all that Jennifer had to endure made me feel a lot better about my 4 shots a day, especially when I saw that progesterone needle she had to have stuck into her butt cheek for months on end, yikes! I know for me I felt like whoever gave me my injections, usually Tony, I felt a deeper bond with them. So the day before our transfer, when Rick was unable to come to CA, I had the pleasure of coming full circle and administering her final shot the night before. I took her out to a really nice dinner and fed her her last glass of wine. I figured the least I could do was treat her to a nice meal seeing as I was getting her pregnant the next morning. It was just she and I and even though we wished our hubbies were there, it was nice to have it just be me and her, best friends.
On October 19th Jennifer, Tony and myself traveled down to San Francisco for the biggest day of our lives thus far, the embryo transfer. I remember being so excited but also it didn't feel real at all. Was this really happening? Would it even work? What is really going on?! We had to wait in a waiting area for a bit and then our doctor came out and asked how everyone was doing. I couldn't speak. I was terrified at that point. If I tried to open my mouth tears came out of my eyes. Jennifer was so calm like she knew this was gonna work no problem and that this is what she was sent here to do. Tony was surprisingly calm as well. Normally he is a little more nervous, especially in high stress or medical settings, than he was that day. Basically we reversed rolls, because I was a mess. I mean I knew it would work if it was meant to, but was it? Had we just gone through all of this for nothing? Would this journey seem never ending and carry on for years to come? We had no clue but we had a lot of faith, hope, love and support surrounding our journey so I took comfort in that. We were called into the transfer room. What an incredible experience that was! Tony stood at Jennifer's head to provide her with plenty of privacy and he turned on his camera to video the experience. We are close with our families so we wanted to be able to share every moment with them, especially since we wouldn't have that SURPRISE moment. I stood to her left holding her hand nervously. They checked, checked again, and then an additional time to make sure we were who we were and that the embryos they had in their hands were ours. Up on the TV screen we saw the embryologist suck our little embryo into the transfer catheter and then they entered our room and handed it over to our doctor. Then the TV screen switched to what looked like an ultrasound screen and we watched in anticipation as the doctor gently placed an itty bitty, perfectly round white light into Jennifer's womb. MIND. BLOWN. That was it. Now we wait. Jennifer instantly said it was working. She has been pregnant twice and both times happened quickly. She is very in tune with her body so she said she could feel the embryo nestling in. I was still skeptical. We had to wait 2 extremely long weeks to find out if we were pregnant! That was brutal.
So at this point my husband and I are living in Sonoma County and the problem with that is if this transfer worked, we are way too far away from where the magic is happening in Arizona. Also, the price tag of living there where we were was astronomical and honestly, I myself was over it. So after some research and talking with my husband's work we decided to close down my business (hardest thing ever, but obviously worth it) and move to the scorching "Valley of the Sun", Phoenix. While we waited for our results I was packing and handling the closing of my business.
We were set to find out if we were indeed pregnant on Halloween which we were excited about. The day before was a Sunday and Tony and I were at home all day packing and preparing for our move December 1st. I remember us both being soooo anxious all day. It was almost debilitating. I'd start to do stuff but then I'd get overwhelmed and have to sit down and basically just stare into space. So much was running through my brain. Did it work? Would it be an easy pregnancy? Could I actually be a parent when all was said and done? How was Jennifer going to feel? How would Tony handle it if it didn't work? How would I feel if it didn't work? The list goes on and on. I decided to text Jennifer just to see if she was still feeling pregnant. She said she was and that she had gotten a pregnancy test to take at home. Obviously we didn't want to solely go off of that as sometimes they can be inaccurate, especially with all the hormones she was on, so she hadn't taken it but really wanted to. I told her we should just wait because we would know for sure the following day but that if she wanted to she could but not to tell us the outcome. I didn't want to get our hopes up and then be disappointed. I continued working on the house.
A few hours passed and I thought, I wonder if she took the test anyways? So I texted her. She said she had, but would only share the results if we were sure we wanted to know them. She then proceeded to send me a picture of the test with the results blacked out! Talk about torture! Tony and I were then on pins and needles. We giggled in excitement and asked if we wanted to know the results... she said she thought we did so we gave in and BAM, we are pregnant!! Tony and I literally couldn't stop laughing. We didn't cry or say anything, we just sat there hysterically laughing. I think we were in utter shock! It worked first try? No effing way! Never in our wildest dreams did we really think that test would say yes. So giggles it was. It was such a funny response but needless to say we were giddy! The next day our home test was confirmed, we were very pregnant with amazing betas! We painted a special pumpkin since it was Halloween day and made our announcement to the world. Some would say it's too early to tell people but everyone in our lives knew what we were doing and we were willing to share our entire experience (hence this long ass blog) no matter the ups and downs.
So all is well in the world right? We are finally on our way to having the baby we have always dreamed of! Nothing can bring us down from this high. Things are progressing nicely and we can almost see the light at the end of the tunnel. But the one down side to all of this is that we have to wait so much longer for everything considering we have been waiting since before the exact moment of conception. So the 12 week danger zone feels like 6 months. And the time between doctors visits is eons. And what are we having? It feels like we will never find out.
In July we get a little news. My big brother and his wife are expecting their first baby and will be due in January, just 6 months before us! We are so excited for them as they have been trying, are newly married, and are getting up there in age in the pregnancy world. (can we call it something other than geriatric for goodness sake?!) Then a few weeks later Tony's brother and wife told us that they are are expecting number 2 and due just days after my brother! Holy smokes! All of these babies, cousins, all the same age! We are elated. But I have to say as truly happy as we are for our family, excited that all of our kids will be so close, and over the moon that we are even able to experience "pregnancies" together, there is still this sadness that lived inside of me. You can't help the emotions that overtake you in certain instances. I mean what should I be sad about? My dream is coming true. Yes, it's unconventional but it's still happening. I don't have a right to be upset that other people have normal bodies that function properly, but I am. And there is nothing anyone can do about it. I feel alienated again because I am different, the story of my life, and I'm upset because I feel like our experience isn't as special now. I mean I know it's special because of our circumstances and all pregnancies are, but now there are two babies coming before ours. The excitement won't be as high because the grandparents and aunts and uncles will all be exhausted already from the other babies. I know this is crazy to think as a baby is a baby and who doesn't love babies, but this is how I feel. But I don't tell anyone other than Tony and my mom this. I don't want to upset anyone the way I did last time. I want everyone to just be in their experience and not pity me or our circumstances.
People start to ask about the pregnancy but they always say," How's Jen"? It's a perfectly normal question to ask since she is the pregnant person but it makes me feel small and insignificant. I'm mentally pregnant and in the panic all first time moms are. I'm also worrying about not only the health and well being of my unborn baby, but also that of my best friend and sister! I can't feel anything happening so even though Jennifer assures me all is well I don't know that for myself. She had extreme morning sickness through the entire first trimester and I can't do anything to make it better. I am beginning to feel like more of a checkbook than mom to be. I wish someone would ask how am I doing? Or heck, "Hey Tony, how are YOU doing"? It can't be this way in a normal pregnancy. I guess because I'm so removed from it all, WE are so removed from it all physically, I need to feel included everywhere else. I have this feeling of insignificance and helplessness. Obviously this child wouldn't be on his way without the hard work I did but that gets lost once emotions take over. I start to worry, will this child even know who I am when he gets out into my arms? Or will he only be consoled by Jennifer because of the bond they've shared and her voice that he knows well? I realize I sound crazy, but that's how I felt and I couldn't control it. I still can't sometimes. What can I do to fill this void... let's induce lactation!
Since we first considered the idea of surrogacy or even adoption I was intrigued by the concept that I could still breastfeed my child. So I knew I was going to embark upon it from the get go. I didn't realize how important it would be to help me feel like a part of the pregnancy but it has been. My only concerns with it were that I don't like to take medications and the possible side effects I might experience due to my side. I'm kind of a hippy when it comes to medicine. I am okay with them in some circumstances but I avoid them when possible, so the idea of using a somewhat sketchy drug to help me on the journey wasn't ideal. Also, I know how sensitive my body is to hormonal fluctuations. My trip to egg retrieval was not pleasant pain wise so I was fearful of a repeat. Plus I'd have to take birth control again and I wasn't sure my husband could forgive me for that, personality wise. For about 6 weeks I decided to just go cold turkey and pump it up. I pumped every two hours, only sometimes pumping at night and it was brutal! We were still now 4.5 months from our due date and I realized there was no way I could keep up with the 8-10 pumpings a day with not a drop being produced. It was really discouraging, plus it felt terrible so I decided to let medicine intervene. Unfortunately, I waited longer than recommended to see my IBCLC, so we had to speed up the protocol. This meant a quick trip to Mexico to get the Domperidone, starting birth control and purchasing the other vitamins and herbs I'd need right away. Within the week I was taking handfuls of medicine 4 times a day. What did I get myself into?
Currently I am only about 3 weeks from making my career in pumping again. They said to wait until about 6-8 weeks from delivery so I don't get worn out. It's crazy to think about how tired I will be. The medications I'm on already make me feel very sleepy. I'm napping mid day everyday which I haven't done in ages and I'm in bed by 9:30 every night which my husband cannot believe. I have always been a night owl who hates mornings, but now I'm up at 6 and out by 10. I guess my body is prepping for the future. I think things are going to work. Right now if I hand express I get significant drops out. Since birth control is a prolactin inhibitor and I am still taking it I see this as a great sign. I have been getting "lightening boob" and they have definitely gotten larger. I have nausea and mood swings and headaches galore. I'm gaining weight thanks to the meds, which I hate, but it's worth it if I can feed my baby. I try to surround myself with other breastfeeding moms, read or watch videos about breast feeding regularly and just have a positive outlook towards it. I know there is a chance I may not be successful at it or that I have success but not as much as I'd like and I'm okay with that. For me it's about the bonding. I have 9 months to make up for after all.
At our 11 week doctors appointment we had the option to have genetic testing done. Jennifer is 35 so we are considered to be having a geriatric pregnancy even though my eggs were 34. The benefit of that is that you get a little more detail. So we decided we wanted to do the test mainly to find out the gender, we couldn't wait another 6 weeks! Had the results come back with bad news we would have rolled with the punches. None of us were okay with the idea of aborting unless Jennifer's life was at risk. I have wanted to be a mom my whole life so what we were having shouldn't have mattered. It's interesting because I was totally okay with raising a child with special needs, should it happen, but for some reason I had a ton of anxiety about the idea of it being a boy. I am in skin care, and I always loved Disney princess movies and singing the songs, I love makeup and pink and tutus and bows so what would I have in common with a boy. Plus they have penises and let's just say they intimidate me! They are so strange and do things I can't explain. I can't imagine puberty and testosterone induced energy. It was my biggest fear. Plus I had talked a big game about breaking my husbands family male mold. They have a ton of boys and I was certain I'd be the one to have a girl finally. I was pushing for a little princess so much that we weren't allowed to use gender specific words when referring to the baby. You certainly couldn't say he or him. So when we had our 12 week ultrasound and the little outline popped up, and even though we didn't have the results back yet and it was too early to tell on ultrasound, I said it's a boy immediately. Both Tony, Jennifer and the ultrasound tech promptly said don't say that and you don't know that. But I just had a feeling, intuition. When the day comes to get our results... wouldn't you know it, IT'S A BOY! How weird that I knew! I was surprised at how calm I felt initially because my dream of having a daughter was gone. But they say the girls love their daddies and the boys love their mommies so I was getting fonder of the idea. I couldn't get beyond the penis thing but I knew I'd eventually figure it out or make that part of daddy duty.
We decided not to tell our families what we were having until we were 22 weeks along. We wanted to do a gender reveal at our new home that we bought in AZ. That would give us our first real moment as parents to be. You see, when you're dealing with this sort of adventure people are scared. It's different and very delicate. So I think our loved ones were just as afraid to accept our pregnancy as we were. As you know, at any minute a healthy pregnancy can turn sour. So Tony and I hadn't felt that moment of excitement from anyone other then Jen and Rick really. We understood but were yearning for that. We knew that having the gender reveal would finally make it real. It would give us the celebratory hoorah we needed to finally relax a bit and would include our loved ones. Plus it was right after we welcomed the other babies into the family, so it was just about us being pregnant for the first time. I was a little bummed because everyone was pressuring us for the gender before the party. I suppose that's what family does though. I have done it with my in laws as they are among the crazy people who can actually wait until their child is born to find out if it's a girl or boy. I don't know how they've done that, I personally would end up in a straight jacket. But I just felt like it was our experience and had to be done on our agenda. Another chord was struck when someone said the reason we were having a gender reveal at all was because I was disappointed about the outcome and needed time to process it. That really upset me. I already felt so guilty inside for being somewhat disappointed we were having a boy, but never even considered that. I would never want my child to know that I had wanted a girl and was let down a bit when we found out he wasn't one. I would hate for him to think I resented him or didn't love him because he wasn't what I "wanted".
Plus I felt like what kind of person do you think I am to say that. I was already worried about the reveal. I knew my mom wanted a grand daughter and I didn't want to disappoint her and I was really afraid of how some people In The family might respond. My husbands family can be a little competitive and I can too. We razz each other a lot and I could just envision someone saying something like, "we told you you wouldn't have a girl", jokingly, but it absolutely killing me inside. But we are human right? and I know better than anyone that sometimes we say things before thinking and in delicate situations people can be easily offended. Having a baby under any circumstances is hard and I imagine ours is a little more strenuous so I know I was personally on edge and easy to upset so I didn't take anything personally even when it hurt. Fortunately all of my worries were for nothing and the reception was overwhelming. I though my mother in law was gonna explode from excitement and we had hundreds of people watching on Facebook live that were cheering and truly happy for us. I'm gonna be a boy mom and I couldn't be more thrilled!
At the beginning of 2017 in mid and late January we welcomed my two beautiful nieces to the world. Like I said, I knew my brother was expecting a girl and I was jealous but overall I was totally fine with it. But then 8 days after niece number one arrived, niece number two was born and we found out she was in fact a girl. I mentally broke down. I wasn't unhappy or upset that they had had a girl. I think I just didn't expect it. With my brother I had time to understand that and get over my selfish desires but because my husbands family doesn't make girls it hit me. I'd never be the one to break the mold. I never in a million year would have expected my reaction. I was totally stoked to be in our own journey by this time. I had easily welcomed my nephew into the world and then my brothers daughter no problem but with niece number two it just forced all the emotions I think I had stuffed down, out and I couldn't stop them for a full day. No one knew about this moment but Tony. I felt like a bad person for feeling this way but I honestly had no control over it, it came as a surprise to me. But after that day it has not bothered me at all. I guess I needed to let it out. I've done a lot of suppressing of feelings throughout my life of medical oddity and especially through this journey to parenthood.
We are now 11 weeks to due date 7/7/17. I still feel like this whole process is surreal and someone else's life. Jennifer is feeling great for the most part and she is just such a positive ball of energy surrounding this baby. Rick has been so supportive and amazing throughout, always providing the cookies or puke bucket when necessary. He too being nothing but positivity. Their children, ages 5 and 2.5 are so excited. They talk to her belly all the time and understand what's happening to the best of their ability. We are about to have our baby showers over the next two weekends and I know that will bring us back to reality. We have been lucky. Our journey, though turbulent, has been easier than a lot of people. We are so grateful for every single day we get to be a part of this. We are so thankful for our awesome doctors and parents and friends and family members who have supported us and gotten us to where we are now. We will forever be indebted to Jennifer and Rick for their love and generosity, kindness and friendship. We will never be able to thank them for the wonderful gift they are giving us but we will never stop trying.
The journey to parenthood is hard for anyone, but especially hard for those of us who have to do things nontraditionally. I have learned a lot. Some of which will even come in handy as a parent. Patience being the biggest. I have learned that I am not as strong as I thought I was, but that I am stronger than I give myself credit for and the same goes for Tony. I have learned that my husband is my rock and I couldn't have asked for a better partner to have been on this adventure with. I have learned that my brain makes things harder than necessary sometimes but it's because it's just trying to guard my heart. I now know for certain that the world does have amazing people in it that are willing to help one another no matter the circumstance. I have learned that we cannot always be in control of ourselves or our circumstances and that's okay. I know that being a parent will only continue to teach me more and more but until then I am just impatiently waiting to meet the new man of my dreams. Thanks for letting me share this moment in my life with you. I hope it gives to you what sharing it has given to me.
Bram's Birth Story
Ways to Save Money
Things not to say to IPs
Tips for newly diagnosed
Mothers with MRKH
Our Gender Reveal
2000- Chrissy dx w/ MRKH
2002- Chrissy & Lee meet
2007- Chrissy & Lee Marry
2009- Chrissy 'hysterectomy'
2013- Awarded Cade Grant
7/3/14- IVF egg retrieval (5)
1/18/15- Embryo Transfer (1)
9/29/15 - Bram born!