Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Closing this Chapter

It is with a heavy, sad heart that I share this news of us losing the baby. It doesn't come as a total surprise as our low, slowly increasing beta numbers, undetected fetal pole, teeny sac and undetected heartbeat are all indicative of miscarriage.  Mercifully, the end has come more quickly than it might have.  Yesterday we were told that even if nothing could be seen in the latest ultrasound aside from a small sac, if our carrier’s beta rose by even a few numbers, we'd have to act as if we were pregnant and prepare for another long, ten day of monitoring. However, this morning we learned that the beta level decreased. An ultrasound will still be performed but it's really just a formality.

We are some of the lucky ones to have come this far and for that we are grateful.  At the same time, we are incredibly sad, distraught and disappointed.  Frustrated comes to mind as well seeing that "excellent quality" embryos aren't necessarily excellent.  (This only added hope and additional pressure to an already tremendously stressful process.)  Personally, I go between numb and sobbing uncontrollably for what might have been.  Having to share this news with our loved ones is dreadful.  They are just as devastated and to hear their disappointment is heart wrenching.  The thought of what we may have to go through if our two frozen embryos don't go to term brings such anxiety to me I can hardly explain it.

We still have each other and together, we will persevere.  We have joined yet another family in the baby-making world - those that have experienced a miscarriage.  I can't say I'm happy to be part of this family but if it helps us to cope better or if we can support someone also going through this, we are here for the long haul.  We'll be speaking with the doctors again tomorrow morning to see how R is doing and to discuss next steps.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Behind the Curve

Our Saturday morning beta results were 2600, a modest increase from the last test but definitely far behind what is "typical". Not surprisingly, in light of this beta count, the ultrasound showed an undefined sac. (With a beta that low, you just don't expect to see a lot of development.) Don't quote me on the description of what was seen as it's all second-hand information heard over a crackly phone connection but the bottom line is that at eight weeks, we (and the doctors) would have expected to see more definition.

If Shannon and I were to actually write a book for parents pursuing surrogacy, one piece of advice would likely be, "Think of beta numbers as hints, not facts, about your baby's health." I'm guessing Shannon and I are driven to this conclusion partly because we're busy trying to move past the fairly poor beta performance we've experienced so far. Dr. Yash told us she has personally witnessed two successful pregnancies that started as inauspiciously. Statistically, we're falling farther behind the norm but we wouldn't be making news if we went full term. Sometimes growth comes in fits and starts, particularly in the first trimester. We absolutely need to see vast improvement over the next couple of weeks but it wouldn't be unprecedented for that to happen. So there remains a reason to hope.

Recently, other intended parents within our extended surrogacy family have received very good, early-in-the-first-trimester news. We love hearing this. First, success is contagious. Second, all of us in this family have sacrificed for the sake of building a family and deserve all the happiness life can give them. We wish you all continued success and have you in our now fairly specific and otherwise selfish prayers.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Hey Beta, Beta, Beta!

[The title is a baseball reference - a lighthearted insider joke for our U.S.-based readers as baseball season starts next month.]

Between Geoff and I both putting in some long work days and the less-than-inspiring news we received from Dr. Yash last Saturday, we haven't been all that motivated to write an update. However, knowing that we have many rooting for us and wanting to answer the surplus of emails asking when we are blogging next, I'm here to share an update for all inquiring minds.

As of March 3rd our beta number was 774 and our next increase - early last week- was 1626.  We were scheduled to speak with Dr. Yash again this past Saturday and, as is now the custom, we called promptly at 7am that morning (5:30pm Saturday night her time). R's numbers increased again, but only by roughly 300 or so. Now, to some, this is great because her beta number increased, but - yes, there is a “but” folks - after three or four days, we (both us and the doctors) had hoped it would be higher, certainly over 2,000. As you can imagine, I instantly panicked and have continued to conjure up the worst scenarios imaginable. Possibly in an effort to make light of the situation, Dr. Yash mentioned that perhaps they tested her too soon so not to conclude anything until the next test. Easy to say but only increasing by 300 just doesn't seem good. We are trying to remain positive but all that really means is ignoring the pessimism and ensuring the passage of time between now and our talk with Dr. Yash this coming Saturday will seem like an eternity. We reached out to the doctors on Tuesday to ask if R is spotting or if she has any cramping – you know, potential symptoms of miscarriage - and we were told "she is doing good". That’s certainly a good start so we’ll just try out best to stay optimistic and hope for booming beta numbers this weekend. (We’re starting to question the value of getting these weekly numbers. Either our carrier’s pregnant or she’s not; what’s the benefit of getting weekly numbers other than to spook the intended parents? It’s not like your average pregnancy is tested this often. Chances are, beta numbers just jump around. Or so we hope!) I’m now dreaming of beta numbers and, until the next test, I have a feeling they'll continue to drift in and out. We’re hoping for a beta that puts 2,000 to shame. Bring it on!

We recently ventured to the bookstore with the hopes of finding a book or two to show us what's happening to the baby and to R each week. Books for intended parents working with a gestational carrier just don’t exist. [Insert note to self here to write a book specifically for IPs going though this process] There are, of course, 1,000+ pregnancy books for couples experiencing pregnancy directly, some extremely graphic with things I do not want or need to know. Long story very short, we left with nothing that night and continue to search for a book that's right for us. Any suggestions, please share! Geoff and I did learn through our own research that whenever doctors calculate the number of weeks into a pregnancy, they count from the date of a woman's last menstruation and not from the date of fertilization. This works out to a two week difference. What does that mean for us? It means that as far as the doctors, books, etc. are concerned, we are actually eight weeks pregnant and not six weeks as we originally thought. However, our expected due date remains the same – 38 weeks after fertilization or 40 weeks after the last menstruation. That’s October 27th for us. The fall has never seemed so beautiful.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Blip on the Radar

I almost feel like we owe our readership some drama to keep everyone engaged. Drama like what you'd find in one of Shannon's favorite television shows, Brothers and Sisters, where not a single day in the tv family's lives goes by without either some life ending catastrophe or the intrusion of a sexy love interest with an accent. Unfortunately, we have neither of those. (Well, not sure this counts, but I have a slight New York accent and my mom says I'm a looker.) All we can offer is good news. Today's new beta level is 774, almost a 300% jump. In fact, grab a seat - the first ultrasound shows a happy, little sac developing in R's belly. Too early to see cardiac movement or even any hint of a fetus but the screen doesn't lie - there's something inching its way to life in there.

After all of this heavy engagement on our part, watching the phone every day and sweating every passing minute, now, all of a sudden, we're transitioning into a no-news-is-good-news phase. Think about it. Up 'til now Shannon and I were very, very worried about things going right. Now we're worried about things going wrong! All we want are predetermined test dates with very positive news and an absolutely vanilla, no surprises pregnancy. Our eyes are now firmly set on the first trimester prize, ending approximately the third of May.

One confession I'm compelled to share is that Shannon and I have both felt a slight bit of disappointment at the implication of the ultrasound - that this would be a singleton birth, not twins. How dare we spend an ounce of emotional energy to bemoan the absence of two when we've been blessed with one? Absolutely agreed. I can only explain it by saying that the emotional and physical toll of the first effort hasn't exactly cast a come-hither glance enticing us to go through it all again. However, that said, we do have two frozen embryos and thus the option to avoid the first hectic round of IVF drugs and hospital stays. And believe me, the disappointment is fleeting at best, quickly beat down by the thrill of knowing that this whole damn process is actually working and that we've a baby slowly making its way to us from across the ocean.

We've held off talking about some other takeaways and advice we'd gleaned from our time in India because we thought it would be pretty cavalier to talk about overseas travel when our minds were a little preoccupied. Shannon and I will of course keep everyone up to date on the progress of our little one but from here on out we'll also sprinkle in some other surrogacy-relevant info we think other couples would be interested to learn. Hopefully, this will be of help to you and will keep us suitably distracted.

Finally, I just wanted to remark on the marvelous avalanche of best wishes we received for our last blog entry. That was stupendous and uplifting and a wondrous reminder that this world is filled with beautiful people. May all the good will return to you and multiply a thousand times. We send our love to our extended family!