Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Nancy P. Saves The Day!

It's safe to assume that when enrolling with a clinic, there are necessary requirements that need to be met before officially being accepted into the program. Things like paperwork and screening tests are a couple of the Surrogacy India (SI) requirements. The screening tests range from basic blood work-ups and urine cultures to a few up close and personal tests.  Given that we will be using my eggs and Geoff's sperm, there are nineteen screening tests that I am required to have and ten for Geoff.  Obviously time is of the essence, therefore panic set in that we'd be scrambling to schedule doctor appointments ASAP, but I must say, all is going quite smoothly thus far. 

Getting an appointment with my gynecologist is like getting in-season Red Sox tickets - unless you know someone, it's nearly impossible.  Lucky for me, Nancy has been in my life for twenty years and she is on my side!  I left a frantic voicemail for her nurses last Thursday night saying that we're moving forward with surrogacy in India and in order to enroll, I must have a bunch of tests run.  Six days later, I was sitting with my feet up in her office.  To be clear, sitting with my feet stirrups with my mustn't-touch-it exposed!  (For the record, the "mustn't-touch-it" phrase is straight from my Dad's vocabulary.)  In one fell swoop, she ordered sixteen of the nineteen tests and from her office, I bopped down to the blood lab and then into X-ray.  13 vials of blood, a chest X-ray, pelvic exam, 10 hugs and a pep talk from Nancy later, I was headed home at 7pm. Thank you Nancy P.!!! 

Other progress this week......Geoff gets close and personal with a plastic cup on Thursday for a more recent semen analysis and we have an appointment on Friday with our fertility doctor here to discuss our plans in India.  (Sidenote - our fertility doctor is Dr. R. Ian Hardy of Fertility Centers of New England and we highly recommend him for those looking locally!)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

First Big Step

Geoff here. That's right - I'll be sharing blogging duties with Shannon. Count yourself lucky? Only time will tell. But in the meantime I've got a milestone to share. After extensive research, Shannon and I have decided to pursue surrogacy with the suitably named clinic, Surrogacy India. We'd narrowed the list down to seven agencies and then beat that list to death.

We culled our list from the very awesome Global Doctor Options website. I haven't spoken to the author(s), I don't know how often it's updated, and I honestly don't know how consistenly accurate it is. But for a seemingly balanced and comprehensive view, this site was the perfect primer. It covers all the basics and contains a very handy list of some of the better known India-based surrogacy clinics. [So why read this blog? Because it'll be a totally biased, one-sided view of our very personal experiences. Don't just trust us - read other blogs. But we promise an unvarnished view.]

These are the clinics we investigated:
Now lowest on our patented India Clinic Criteria Scale were the clinic websites themselves. In this 21st century Internet-age, I think we're all sufficiently savvy and/or cynical to disbelieve what's written on company websites. I'm not saying they're liars. I'm just saying that on the Web facts aren't black or white, they're stretched thin across a wide, gray scale. Anyway, the majority of India clinic websites aren't very good. In fact, our research taught us that some of the better clinics had the lousiest sites. Bottom line, use the clinic websites to get contact information and then move on.

Contacting the clinics can be a bit difficult at first. No matter how well it has sunk in that you're simply tracing the footsteps of countless other couples, the fact is it's you you're writing about. How to start? As for many other topics, we'll cover this one in future entries. For now, the first contact should be used primarily to get a price list and a list of references. Yes, there's a lot more to learn. But if you have these two you're on your way to comparing options.

Ah, the references. That's the magic. Contact all of them. Every single one of them. There's no better resource. The more the better. Did I mention you should get references? Part of my bias is that this is just sensible "shopping". However, part of it also comes from the fact that there is just an amazing community of Intended Parents out there. They've shared the same concerns, worried over the same fears, and had the guts to take the plunge. In fact, if you think about it, they're you, just a few months or years up the road. Speaking with these couples, Shannon and I felt like we were about to join an exclusive club of fantastic people. What an honor to count some of these folks as our friends.

After all of our research, Surrogacy India was, on the whole, the most professional and responsive clinic while Surrogacy India references were, on the whole, the most satisfied and encouraging contacts. Are we convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt? Of course not. No research is fool-proof and there's a long, knee-shaking road ahead of us. But we know we're ready to move on because when Shannon and I looked at each other and spoke the words, "Ready for the next step?" - we smiled.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

With Most Bad Things, There Are Good Things Too

In our culture, it’s odd (and obtrusive) that people feel the need to be nosey. Once you find "the one", people are constantly asking "when are you going to get married??" Once you are married people are constantly asking "when are you going to have children??" Lesson #1 - unless you are CLOSE family or friends, don't ever think it's okay to ask people that question. Some people in fact don't want kids or choose to have kids later in life and for others, perhaps there are fertility complications. When continually asked "when are you going to have children?", and there are fertility complications, it just about pours salt into the wound. Whichever the reason, unless you are close family or friends, it's no one's business but your own!

Up until now, our infertility hasn’t been grand public knowledge and it is with great hesitance that I write even this much. Those close to us, of course, know but we don’t spend a great amount of time discussing it as, to this day, I still can’t understand why it had to happen to me. (Not that I would ever wish this upon anyone else.) In a nutshell and without sharing too much info, I was born with a condition that has left me healthy but without a uterus. One in every 4,000 women have this condition or a form of it and, fortunately for me, my case is mild as it could have left me without other girly parts. I have known about this since I was a teenager and not one day has gone by since the day I found out that I am not deeply saddened by it. Unlike most teenagers, I never got a period, but I did “develop”. (And boy did I develop!) My Mom made an appointment with a well known gynecologist (Nancy P.) who I am proud to say is still my doctor and trusted friend. After a variety of ugly tests we had a diagnosis and on December 13th, 1989, we met with Nancy to find out what it was.  Before we learned anything, we sat in Nancy's office - me trembling while my mother had tears rolling down her face in fear of the worst. (insert boatloads of tears and uncontrollable sobbing here) My doctor explained the condition, gave us some helpful printed materials about it and talked about the good news and bad news moving forward.

Good news - I have healthy fallopian tubes, ovaries and most likely, healthy eggs.
Good news - I’ll never get a period in my life.
Bad news – I have this condition and because of this, I’ll never be able to carry a child.

Now, to some teenagers, this news wouldn't mean much at that point in their lives, but to me it was disturbing because I have ALWAYS known that I want to have children. I had dolls I would not part with and a younger sister by 6.5 years who were all “my babies”. I started as a mommy’s helper for our neighbor and then was babysitting for their baby girl when I was 12, if that. To this day we babysit our family and friend’s children because we genuinely love them and we’re happy to spend time with them. Not a day goes by when I am not sad, frustrated or angry I was born this way. Feeling ill-equipped and inadequate is a horrible, devasting feeling that I know many women can relate to. Many others can’t and I appreciate those in my life who have tried to put themselves in my shoes. Over the years, I have been thrilled with joy each time I hear someone I know is pregnant or had a baby. I am most definitely chipper for the guests of honor at a baby shower and happy to play with the kids at birthday parties, but inside it can be painful and hard to put on a happy face. Not because I’m jealous, but because my situation sucks and it’s not fair. (I know, life isnt’ fair, but this is how I feel and I’m entitled to it.)

The positve part to this is, I have a husband who loves me regardless of my condition and together, we will survive and prevail. For those looking for love with difficulties such as mine, I did not scoop up the last compassionate, loving, very handsome man, but I did get one of the best! This finally leads us to our recent decision to pursue surrogacy in India, so off we go!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Story Before The Story

Gentlemen, you may want to take a restroom break for this part. Ladies, put your feet up and feel the love!

After Geoff and I met in December of 2005, we knew pretty quickly that it was the right fit. So much so that we moved in together within a few months and were engaged in May 2006. Ah yes, it was during the raging floods that took New England by storm when he proposed and I don't think either of us will ever forget it. We wet-vac'ed the basement for 36 hours, taking shifts so we could each catch a cat nap or run to the restroom. As fast as it was coming in, we were wet-vac'ing it out. (Guess I shouldn't complain because our neighbors had five pumps going and still couldn't keep up and even more importantly, we got engaged!) Much to my surprise he had The Ring for a while but decided on the spot that this day in May was the right day to ask me. His thoughts were – why wait for “the perfect moment” with lots of pomp and circumstance when the perfect reason was right there in front of us - if we could get through this and still love each other as much as we did, we could get through anything together. (fast-forward 2 years and 2 months later and hello India!)

We were engaged for a year and one month and pretty much every day of our engagement was spent planning some part of our spectacular wedding festivities for us and our guests. Up until Geoff met me, my mom and my sister, he had never met insanely organized, die hard party planners. For me, party planning comes very naturally. In fact, because of that (and a few other things), I started a successful event planning and management business over five years ago. Being the last of my closest girlfriends to get married and because of my profession, you can bet your butt that this was going to be an unforgettable, miraculous wedding. No stone was left unturned and no detail was forgotten, literally.

As much as I would love to share each detail about all of the other festivities we enjoyed leading up to the wedding and the wedding, (that is a blog in itself) I would much prefer to blog about this incredible journey we are embarking on.  However, for the hopeless romantic in you, please indulge me and allow me to share a few details and pictures of the wedding.  It might be over the top for some but for us, our wedding and all of the festivities around it really were everything we wanted and hoped for.

We got married on June 24th, 2007 at one of Boston's five-star hotels – the Boston Harbor Hotel. Geoff was stunning and could have easily had a photo shoot in GQ (truthfully, he always looks that great). I wore a gorgeous Romona Keveza gown in platinum and I may just wear that bad boy around the house for the rest of my life just because I love it THAT much. The ceremony, cocktail reception, dinner and dancing were all at the hotel. Our ceremony was “in the round” and the chuppah, which twinkled with crystals and candles, was centered amongst our guests. I was raised Catholic and Geoff Jewish; And one of our closest friends (JB) who is a Unitarian Minister officiated a beautiful ceremony incorporating a little bit of everything, including a couple jokes from my single days. (Sidenote - I met JB and his wife ten years ago when I used to nanny for their newborn son. They now have 3 kids and all of them are very much a part of our lives.) The cocktail reception was outside on the terrace overlooking Boston Harbor. Our friend SB has pipes like no other singer and, accompanied by her fellow musicians, she was remarkable for our ceremony and cocktail reception. She sang old standards that we love and got us warmed up for the orchestra that stirred things up during dinner and dancing. Everyone just soaked in all of the details and elegance of that night – especially Geoff and I. 

Since that unforgettable time, our relationship has continued to grow and strengthen. Our priorities and focus have now shifted to the next important step in our lives - growing our family beyond just us.