Thursday, August 26, 2010

Health Check

A couple weeks of somewhat blessed silence were wrapped up with the first screen for Down Syndrome. Our clinic takes a nicely comprehensive approach, performing a combined screen during the 10th and 11th week. Made up of two blood tests and one ultrasound, this screen supposedly detects 80% to 90% of babies with Down Syndrome. In our case, the two blood tests - we're talking about R's blood, by the way - were performed late last week and the results were good. Expressed as ratios, each were "better" than the cutoff ratio which, adjusted for Shannon's age, is 1:250. (As in 1 out of 250 babies with the same blood test results have Down Syndrome.) The ultrasound won't happen until this week to give the baby a little more time to grow. Ultimately, it's the combination of these three results that will determine the likelihood of DS. So far, so good.

We've learned that this combined screen and similar exams to be performed during the second trimester just about eliminate the need for amniocentesis. That's great to hear because amnio increases the risk for miscarriage and we've had enough to worry about already, thank you very much. The only reason we'd request an amnio is if the screens came back with very negative results. So far, Shannon and I have no reason not to feel optimistic. It's a good thing because, quite honestly, we haven't forced ourselves to think through the implications of negative results. What would we do? I honestly don't know. The by-the-book answer is to take it one day at a time with constant reminders that a screen is not a guarantee. The reality is probably messier.

Meanwhile, our pregnancy continues. There'd actually been an ultrasound on the 12th of August that had taken us by surprise - we didn't know it was happening and the results weren't posted 'til days later. (Again, this is the one allowance it seems you have to make with overseas surrogacy. Dates are going to be fluid and expectations won't always be set.) The results were just where you'd like them to be; our little one was 27.4mm from crown to rump (rump!) with healthy cardiac activity at a little over 9 weeks. We'll have to take their word for it all because the images, well, this is the best one and I don't think it's time to play "who does he/she look like" yet:
Tilt your monitor, play with the brightness - it doesn't matter as, apparently, this little fetus is a camouflage master. My understanding is that we'll be getting video once we're fully into the second trimester. For now it's this shadowy radar.

Finally, this past Sunday we had the great pleasure to meet up with a few couples who had either already, successfully, gone through India surrogacy or were considering it. Our hosts were the venerable Mike and Mike, of Spawn of Mike and Mike, whose coverage of their surrogacy experience (now over a year ago!) was early inspiration for us.

Cripes were those babies adorable! All the little folks we met were the product of Indian egg donors which means, apparently, that some cute button is pressed in utero. The best thing about this gathering though? It was just a bunch of folks acting like parents. The babies certainly had no idea where they were from and the adults were dealing with the exact same issues as any other mother or father. India was the backstory, not the plot. That's the novel we're hoping to write as well.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Beyond Beta

Saturday morning was accompanied by gloriously boring news - our little embryo's development is right on course, just where one would expect it to be seven weeks into a pregnancy. In little over a week the length has doubled and cardiac activity appears strong and even.  It is not lost on us that this is about the time we'd had to accept the miscarriage of our first attempt, nor will we ever forget. The memory keeps our expectations modest so even small developmental changes leave us feeling like a C student getting A's.

We're also very proud of R who has had to endure separation from her family and multiple pokes and prods for blood tests, ultrasounds and the like. I can tell you that Shannon thinks about this often and wishes desperately for the briefest of opportunities to see R, hold her hand, express our thanks, and do what we can to be supportive. As you may recall, once a pregnancy is in full swing our clinic will relocate our carrier and her family until delivery and complete recovery. This relocation both allows the clinic to ensure a healthy, clean environment for the duration while also enabling our carrier and her family to avoid the questions and stares that come with being pregnant for nine months and then returning home empty handed. Apparently, it is not uncommon for families to come and go; seems their disappearance won't be particularly noted. It is satisfying to know that R is now with her children and husband full time.

Some folks were wondering whether or not we get test results in written form. The Surrogacy India clinic furnished us with our own password-protected Google Site upon which all test results are posted. Originally, this site was the home for our beta tests. We'd get a call from the doctors telling us the count while, concurrently, a report would be uploaded to the site. Thankfully, we're beyond beta tests so no more number counting; now it's about ultrasounds. On the site we find both still images of the ultrasound and, separately, a report written by the sonographer. The write-ups are fairly straightforward; we didn't even bother to speak with the doctors about them. We suspect (we hope!) the next seven months will proceed this smoothly.

With some exceptions, Shannon and I are concerned about an excess of ultrasounds. We want just enough to track development without endangering that development. To this end, what's most important for us are diagnostic ultrasounds used to identify conditions like Down Syndrome. We'll spend more time on this topic (and amniocentesis) in a later post but, needless to say, pre- and post-diagnostic scan conversations will definitely occur.

In the meantime, we're enjoying the jargony news that, according to our ultrasound report, the gestational sac "reveals good choriodecidual reaction with a fetal pole and yolk sac". Which got me thinking - have you ever noticed the complete absence of assisted reproduction greeting cards? For example, now would be a time for something like "Congrats on your good choriodecidual reaction" or "That fetal pole is one in a million!". Or stealing from graduation cards, Bar/Bat Mitzvah cards and the like, once we hit the 11 week mark: "Now you're a fetus"...... Ok, maybe it's pretty obvious why you never see them.