Sunday, September 30, 2012

I went to the SCI clinic yesterday for some blood work, and then again today to meet Dr. Shivani for my ultrasound. My first impression of the clinic is that it is nothing like any of the clinics portrayed in the documentaries or in books like "The Sacred Thread". The clinic is very impressive, modern, and with the exception of the outside traffic, not all that much different from my fertility clinic in the US.
I was very nervous to meet Dr. Shivani for the first time. I see all the beautiful dreams she makes come true for so many couples, so I am in just complete awe of her work.  I didn’t know if she was going to ask me about Parker. I didn’t want to cry because when I do, I gasp for air and can barely talk; since I am also still fighting sleep deprivation, as well as the hormonal surges of PMS, I at least wanted to maintain my voice. In other words, I had to remind myself to just "be cool, man". Dr. S is very gracious and within moments I began to relax.  She took the papers from my doctor describing the risk of a pregnancy, inserted them into my file, and to my relief we didn’t have to discuss it. She then began to summarize the IVF protocol; as this is my first IVF cycle, she was very good at explaining what I should expect.   She also seemed very positive about my labs -  LH 1.4, FSH 4.1, estradiol 66, and AFC 15. I begin injections tomorrow and will be shown how to give them to myself so that I can travel and see the Taj Mahal and all the sights of Delhi.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Que Sera Sera

So after making all the initial checks - passport, hotel confirmation, and what not - it seemed like all that was needed was to grab a cab and  board our plane.  When we arrived at the ticket counter for United Airlines, we were instructed to use the automated kiosk. No problem  - done this a few times before.  Unfortunately, all I got was "Error!", "Error!", no matter what I did, "Error!"  I was being a bit proud of myself for waking up at 4:00 AM and still handling myself graciously, but I was in serious need of some assistance.

Fast forward twenty minutes later. I get the much needed help that I so desperately required. The flight we planned to take had us routed through Singapore, where we were supposed to arrive at 11:55 PM local time and depart 2 hours later. But since the connecting flight to Delhi would technically be the following day, they could not check the bags to our final destination.  They suggested that we  fetch our bags in Singapore and then recheck in at the Singapore airport.  So far this is OK - I didn't need a visa to travel to Singapore.   Common sense tells you that a person could not clear customs and recheck into the airport in 2 hours.   

The ladies at United were kind and were doing their best to accommodate the situation, but their computers were not allowing them to override the system to check our bags to our final destination (and they really tried).  Fast forward another 2 hours and the lovely United ladies re-routed our flight: a quick jaunt to Newark, then direct to New Delhi.  Slaps on the backs all around - we grabbed our tickets and although I was a little frustrated,  I brushed it off.   

Then the freak out - we are arriving a day early! Rahul is supposed to meet me at the gate and I don’t even have a hotel reservation for the first night. I had everything so organized, what was I going to do? My mom - the ever so Que Sera Sera optimist-  told me “to forget about it, we'll figure it out when we get there.”  I am not exactly the "figure it out when we get there" type of gal.  I have never been diagnosed with OCD but I know I do have the tendencies – it’s a flaw,  love me or don’t. I was freaking out all over the place heart beating fast, sweaty palms,  the whole lot. What am I going to do? We left our cells at home. Do they still have payphones? Turns out they do - thank goodness for the leftover vestiges of yesteryear.  I was able to call my very understanding husband in mid panic attack and he extended our hotel reservations (my hero).  And thanks to the technology gods who gave us WiFi, I emailed Rachna at SCI who is such a fantastic person and within minutes had our airport transfer rearranged.   Thanks to my now dear friend for life Rachna and my husband it wasn’t such a big deal.

We then passed through security, and took a quick bathroom break before heading to our gate. Warning - too much info ahead - but for you self-cyclers, you will understand.  I started to spot- maybe it was the stress, but this wasn’t supposed to happen for another week. (We were arriving early just in case.) So as you can understand, I am entirely grateful to the whole snafu that lands me in India even earlier.   I am taking this as a sign that the stars and universe were aligning to get me to India when I needed to be.  Que Sera Sera indeed!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

We are off


Read up on my travel books


Registered with the embassy
Said my goodbyes

And now we are off...  I confess I am unbelievably nervous, yet excited at the same time. I am headed off to the gym before I leave for Yin/Restorative Yoga.  These classes seem to have been a well kept secret amongst the over-50 crowd at the gym. Anyways, they are in no way a "work out" in the sense that you either sweat or exert yourself,  but it is a great way to relax.   That, my friends, is the kind of working out I like to do.
My next post will be from India J


Friday, September 21, 2012

The Sacred Thread

 I commend and thank Adrienne Arieff on writing this memoir of her experience. If you haven’t read it, it is definately worth picking up.  I am just starting my journey, but the paths that lead both of us to surrogacy in India are very similar.

Adrienne worked with Dr. Patel, the doctor who gained worldwide fame through Oprah Winfrey.   The Oprah show declared that surrogacy in India was mutually beneficial for Indians and Westerners alike, describing surrogacy as “Women helping Women”.

Like many women who choose this path, it wasn’t an easy one.  Arieff had 3 losses - two early miscarriages and the heartbreaking loss of Collette at 20 weeks.  She does a very good job of describing the emotional intensity of these difficult times.  She is heavily criticized for her choice of surrogacy by her “friends”, but she defends her decision eloquently.  Later Arieff desperately wants to connect with the surrogate pregnancy and flies back to India to spend the remainder of her pregnancy with her surrogate. Despite a language barrier, they connect, bond, and appear to truly love each other.  Arieff discusses the personal growth made by both herself and Vaina (her surrogate), which leads the reader to agree with Oprah -  it’s a “win-win” situation. The book is great and provides an insight into this process. 
If you read the book, what did you think?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Why Now? Why Surrogacy? Why India?

I don't think anyone chooses to use a gestational carrier. And it's not like you have some wine, one thing leads to another, you wake up the next morning "Oh, did I just sign a gestational carrier agreement?", and 9 months later you have a baby. For me, I had two miscarriages; the doctors ran every test they had and could come up with no reason as to why it was happening.  So when I got pregnant the third time, I was really scared.  My doctor told me that once he hears the heartbeat on the Doppler, there is less than 5% chance of miscarriage. Before I had never gotten that far. “Ecstatic is the only word that describes how I felt. I fell in love with my son Parker in the womb and at 24 weeks I gave birth to him. He was in distress at birth, but the doctors were able to resuscitate him. Parker’s chance of survival was very low- he had many health problems due to his size, including brain damage and internal bleeding throughout. At best, he was looking at a life sentence as a prisoner in his own body. Before Parker passed, we held him in our arms, we sang to him, we kissed him, and when it was time to go he knew he was loved. We took away his suffering, and gave ourselves the most unimaginable pain- a life without him.

The Doctors could not give a reason as to why this happened. Because Parker was so small and his position at birth required a surgery that made subsequent pregnancies life-threatening to both myself and our future babies, they suggested that a gestational surrogate could be a solution. I could consider undertaking the risk if it was just myself, but how could I do that with our children’s lives?
What we did not expect about this process was how complicated, emotional, or expensive it was going to be. Given that our fertility is quickly declining, time to save the money is just not on our side. Surrogacy in the US is expensive, complicated, and in cases where parentage is disputed, the courts tend to side with the birth mother even if no biological link exists. With various scenarios involving egg donors and sperm donors, defining who is a parent can get intensely complicated.

We both are really comfortable with international travel and wondered if IVF and surrogacy was an option somewhere else in the world. Well, it so happens it is...We looked into various other countries such as Thailand, Georgia, and Panama, before deciding on India.

 The critisism of surrogacy abroad is often focused on the possibility of exploitation. If in any way, we felt we were taking advantage of someone who is vulnerable to exploitation, we would pursue other options – Period- End OF Discussion- Full Stop!

 After six months of extensive research, we have found that Indian surrogates are paid between $6,000 and $10,000. In most cases, this kind of money is life changing to the surrogate; it is often more money than their family makes in 10 years. Imagine what you could do with an additional 10 years of your salary- Secure you children’s education? Buy your dream home? Start a business? Go back to school? They do all the things we would do with 10 years’ salary.

In the US, a surrogate mother is paid between $15,000 and $65,000. Although this is still a great deal of money, it is in no way as impactful. Since the woman who carries our child will make such a difference in our life, it is comforting to know that her life will be changed for the better as well.

Friday, September 14, 2012


My husband works unpredictable schedules.  We never really know when he will be able to have time off, and even when he thinks he does it can change last minute.  This keeps life exciting and us on our toes. So for him to be able to say he needs to be in India at a certain date - not going to happen. The solution for us is to ship his errr….,  ummm… let’s say his  “sample”.

Things were going very smooth until time to ship. At that point, our local clinic became concerned with liability issues and refused to let us sign a release form. From what I understand, this is a very unusual reaction. The local clinic’s suggestion: they would hand over our samples to us personally, but not to the very professional cryo- shipping company with the very high-tech vapor carrier. WHAT???

“No! Please, please, please work with me” I pled as I burst into tears with the embryologist here in the States.  Fast-forwarding through a very long and emotional day, the clinic finally agreed to release the samples if we stayed  with the samples from the time they were put into the vapor tank until the shipper picked them up. We could then assume all liability for them.  If you are going this route, the shipper (Core Cryolab) has been fabulous in helping us to circumvent these issues so that in the end we didn’t even have to wait with the vapor carrier. Core Cryolab is incredible! 

Once our samples left our local clinic, it was like a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. Everything else went smoothly.  I know I should cut the local clinic a little slack since they really are the newbies involved in the process of international shipping. Core Cryolab and SCI have done this multiple times. So let me tell you it was a great relief when the shipment was solely in Core Cryolab’s hands. Today we got our confirmation that the shipper arrived safe and sound at  SCI!

Lessoned learned:  Before providing any samples for shipping to India, get the release protocols from your local clinic in writing.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Tickets in Hand

We have tickets! We have visas! We have an appointment to meet the lovely Dr. Shivani! My mom offered to go with me to India! Yeah, Mom! My mother’s visa went off without a hitch, and had hers back in seven days. Mine, on the other hand, didn’t quite go so smoothly. It took a minute to notice they had put a different surname on the visa.  This is a very big deal because they won’t let you in the country unless you are you on all of your documents. So thanks to the good people at Travisa all was handled and they corrected the mistake, but these things still take time. SCI was more than reasonable about putting off treatment for the next cycle to allow the time for this to get corrected. So for me the entire visa process took 6 weeks. But I have it now, and I’m legal and ready to go to New Delhi which will be in a little over three weeks! J  It’s so soon, and now with plane tickets in hand it feels real. I am so happy and excited to get started.  

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The View

Watching "The View" today, there was an incredible story about a grandmother who acted as a surrogate for her daughter.  The couple had lost babies at 5 months pregnant and could not safely carry a child to term. The grandmother stepped in with such a generous offer of love to keep the baby (a little boy name Finn) safe for 9 months.  It was a very overwhelming offer and one that my own mother made, and I confess I shed a few tears while watching her story.  It is a very selfless act to be a surrogate for someone, but especially at that age. I fear there are health complications of being pregnant post-menopausal.  These risks are the reason I could not accept my own mother's very generous and loving offer.  For us, the answer is commercial surrogacy and a trip to New Delhi.  And because 32 is not too old to still need mommy, my mother will be in tow as I take her up on her also generous offer to hold my hand through the process instead.  

Little Finn’s grandmother said something that struck a chord “that couples in these situations feel so alone.” I just wanted to say thanks to all those who take the time to blog and share their stories - it really does help me personally feel less isolated.