Wednesday, February 29, 2012

10 Days Left Until we leave for California!

These two could end up having a little brother (or sister) by Christmas!!   That would be pretty awesome!  :-)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Where it all began: My Infertility Story

It all has to begin somewhere, right?  I mean, all of us dealing with infertility have a story...and it's only in the past few years where I've really started to understand how many different versions of the story there is:  Endometriosis. PCOS. MRKH. Asherman's Syndrome. Swyer's Syndrome. Turner's Syndrome. Not to mention all the different forms of cancer.  And then there's me.  Just one of the crowd.

When I was a kid, I couldn't wait to start my period so that I could look like all the pretty grown-up ladies.  I was a BIG fan of Barbie, and definitely prayed that God would be benevolent and give me "big boobs."  However, by the time I had turned 16 and still not started my period (much less gotten those big boobs I was so desperate for)...I was beginning to get WORRIED.

"What was going on?  Why was I such a late bloomer?!"

My previous family doctor had always told me not to worry.  It was "no big deal", and things would happen when my body was ready.  But my old doctor (emphasis on the word old) had since retired, and I was becoming increasingly impatient and worried.  My new family doctor gave me a pelvic exam, and then promptly sent me to the gynecologist with no diagnosis.

Not a good sign, in my opinion.

Turns out I was right.  It wasn't a good sign.  My new gynecologist didn't really tell me what was wrong at first.  She took some blood work, did a pelvic exam...and sent me on my way to  summer camp.  All I kept thinking the entire week I was away at summer camp was that I was so excited to get back home and hopefully they'd be able to give me a pill to kickstart my period.  Hopefully things would be a-ok very soon!

Well, when I got home from camp...I went straight to the doctor's office.  She informed me that my long-awaited period was never coming because my "ovaries were twisted," and that they "hadn't formed properly in my mother's womb."  Because of that, I needed them removed immediately or they'd turn cancerous.  Oh, and by the way, I had no fallopian tubes or uterus, so I could never have a child.

I was D.E.V.A.S.T.A.T.E.D.

No big boobs, and now no children either?!!?!  I basically didn't leave the house for an entire summer. My mother refused to accept it, and I never told anyone.  I felt so ashamed.  Worried that I would never be loved, and that no one would ever want to marry me.  After all, who would want someone that was so broken?

Finally, after two years I was able to accept it and have the surgery done to remove "my twisted ovaries."  It was 5 months after my 18th birthday.  I'd finally had my first kiss that summer by a boy I'd been in love with for years.  I never told anyone that I was even going to the hospital to have the surgery.  I just wanted it all to be done so that I could forget.

After that my body had no way of producing any hormones, and I was put on hormone replacement therapy.  I'm still on it to this day.  But it took YEARS for me to finally learn the TRUTH about what was/is wrong with me.  My doctor wouldn't tell me.  My mother (if she actually knew) wouldn't tell me.

It turns out that I have a genetic disorder called Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (Complete AIS). It means I have XY chromosomes, yet I'm a girl!  I didn't even know it was possible.  I'd never heard of such a thing.  And it's taken many years to gather the courage to tell anyone...period.  In fact, if my infertility came up somehow, I'd give a blase answer about cancer.  (So, yeah...basically I lied.  But it was...and still is....easier.)  Besides my mom and my doctors, my husband was the first other person to know the truth...and it took me years to tell him.  I was so ashamed & worried how people would react because it's not something anyone ever talks about.  I didn't want to be bullied or asked silly questions about whether or not I was a guy.  So one talks about weird genetic idiosyncrasies like mine on the other infertility & surrogacy blogs...and to my knowledge, I'll be the only AIS blog that I've found on the internet.  After all these years of secrecy, it feels strange to put it out here like this, and the only reason I'm doing it is because I know there are a number of other women with AIS who might want to choose surrogacy and egg donation too...and I hope that my story will help someone.  

Now I've grown to accept it for what it is...another one of the causes of infertility.  It's no longer the identity crisis that it once was, and it's something that I've known about and lived with for 20 years.  In fact, I feel lucky to not have had to try [and fail] with IVF treatments.  We knew straight-away that if we wanted "biological" children, this would be the way we'd have to do it.

All I know is that I'm so grateful that this option exists for us.  I'm so grateful that there are women out there that will donate their eggs to another couple, and that someone is willing to carry our child. At 16, I felt like the world was over...but what I realized is that it was just changing.  It wasn't what I'd thought it would be like, but life has been GREAT so far!  I can't wait for the next chapter in our lives to begin!

Oh...and hey...that's me over there!  :-)

Things I learned while looking for "the perfect" egg donor...aka our egg donor story.

The first (and most important) thing I learned while searching for our own donor is that there is no "perfect" egg donor.  The whole process felt very surreal, and reminded me of a time (prior to meeting to my husband) when I decided to try online dating...

First, there was a lot of looking at online profiles at various egg donor agencies.  To me the ED is one of the most important keys to this process because they're essentially representing me in our future baby!  Of course, I wanted them to hopefully look a bit like me, and be built like me too.  And if possible, have some of my personality traits as much as possible.  Well, all that is much easier said than done...

 First off, just like with online dating, it's hard to gauge what that person truly looks like from their photos.  Some photos look great.  Others look nothing like that person's other photos and you wonder how someone could look so different from picture to picture?  Of course, it's even better when you get to see a video of someone so you get a sense of how they sound, what their personality is like, etc.  It feels like you're "meeting" them in real life.  Finally after looking at a variety of donors, we finally settled on someone that just immediately registered [to me] as "SHE'S THE ONE!!"  Everything in her profile made me feel like she was the perfect for us.

So we signed on with the agency and got in a contract with our egg donor.  Things seemed great!!  However, about two weeks prior to our first scheduled transfer, we were informed by the agency that our egg donor's father had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and she wasn't going to be able to make it to the transfer date.  In fact, they weren't sure if she was going to be able to do a future transfer either.  We were devastated!  All our money had been paid for the agency fees, medications, donor's fees, flights, hotels, etc.  Our surrogate was on medication, etc.  This felt like a serious blow.

We took a few days to re-group...  I had to take a few days to pull myself off the couch quite frankly.  I felt really down.  I was definitely worried if we'd be getting all our money back, etc. But after a number of emails and phone calls, we were able to get the majority of our money back.  (This seems like a no-brainer, but it really isn't.  MAKE SURE YOU CLEARLY UNDERSTAND THE TERMS OF THE EGG DONOR CONTRACT BEFORE YOU SIGN ANY PAPERWORK!!!)

Because I'd actually found my egg donor prior to finding a fertility clinic, I was not aware that my fertility clinic works with a number of egg donors directly.   This was not something I'd heard of before, but in the end was great!  We were able to save an agency fee, and just had our lawyers work up the details & contracts.  My lawyer is holding the escrow for the ED.  (Yes, the egg donor is still anonymous though.  Only our lawyer and the fertility clinic know her name & info.   All her medical data, photos, etc were sent to us with her donor number...not her name.)  Another great thing about using a donor through our clinic is that our RE is familiar with her, and knows how many eggs she produced last retrieval, etc!  (Due to financial reasons, we were having to go with a first time donor originally...but because we were able to save the agency fee and much of the travel costs, our second donor is costing us less.  *Big sigh of relief*)  

So now we're a little over two weeks away from our retrieval and transfer in California...for the SECOND time!!  I'm hoping for lots of eggs, of course...and lots of healthy embryos!  Our goal is to do one Single Embryo Transfer (SET) though.  My husband and I are not looking for twins.  I know SETs aren't everyone's choice, but this is our plan.  If it doesn't work the first time, we'll have to regroup after that. is a SUMMARY of important things I learned through the many months process of searching for an egg donor.  (Especially important for those of you on a budget trying to figure out how to pay for this whole expensive IVF/surrogacy process.)

  1. Find a fertility clinic FIRST - If you are like us, and already know you can't have a child that doesn't seem like an obvious first step.  But in the end, they just might be able to help you save some money and find a great egg donor quickly.
  2. Look at a ton of different profiles - There are lots of great women out there willing to be an egg donor.  Create a list of what's important to you and narrow it down from there.  
  3. Consider the costs involved - Our first surrogate was actually overseas, and one of the reasons we chose her was because her fees were low and it actually seemed less expensive than an American egg donor.  However, in the was going to be the same or more.  Egg donors living in the same city as the clinic won't need a hotel or car rental....and obviously not a plane ticket!  
  4. Make sure you read and understand the contract - Both with the egg donor agency (if applicable) and also with the egg donor!  This was definitely what saved us when our first egg donor backed out of the transfer at the last minute.
  5. Ask for the donor to make a video - Some agencies already have the donors make videos if they'd like.  Obviously not every donor will want to do this, but our first donor did...and it felt great to "meet" her in person.  We ended up not getting a video from our second (and current) donor, but now I'm more comfortable with the process and can live with our decision much easier b/c of all the stress we went through the first time after our cancellation.
  6. Read over her medical history very thoroughly - This seems obvious, but in the heat of the moment when you think you've "fallen in love" with a donor b/c of some reason such as "she loves Bob Dylan's music" and "she's sooooo cute" may end up overlooking something in her medical history that you'll regret later.  This almost happened to us when I got overly excited about someone, but later realized I'd overlooked some red flags in her medical history that would worry me (personally) for a long time to come.  I tend to be a worry-wart anyways, but you have to figure out what you can personally live with.
  7. Decide what you can live with and what you can't - Everyone has something wrong with them.  There is no person (or their family) that is not touched by cancer...or diabetes....or arthritis....or depression....or SOMETHING!  After all, I've got my own issues and hence the reason we're doing this in the first place.  So decide what you can live with and what you can't.  
  8. Breathe deep, have a glass of wine, and HOPE FOR THE BEST! - When you're using an egg donor, this entire process is out of your hands.  All I can do is read other people's TTC blogs, chat with my surrogate, and annoy my husband.  Oh, and play with my two dogs.  Ha!  There is still a LOT of time to kill in this whole process.
Anyways...I wrote this post b/c I hope it will help someone out there.  It's hard accepting the fact that you cannot have your own child.  Especially hard sometimes is accepting that you cannot have your own biological child if that's the route you want to take.  Thankfully for us, we were just excited to be able to try this option.  I feel blessed that there are such wonderful women out there willing to donate their eggs...and their wombs to other women such as myself.  The world is truly a wonderful place sometimes.  :-)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A few resources for Intended Moms looking for extra reading material

As an intended mom, I've found that I have become a voracious online reader of anything to do with surrogacy, especially stories of other people's journeys.  There are definitely some great blogs out there, but I also wanted to point out something a bit more traditional - the book "Surrogacy was the Way."

I recently read Zara Griswold's compilation of twenty mothers' stories, and it really helped give a total overview of lots of different experiences from start to finish...especially as it related to the feelings of lack of control, the endless waiting, the reasons why we're infertile in the first place, and of course the complicated feelings around the relationship with our surrogate mothers...

I'm very thankful to have a great relationship with my surrogate mother, but we are also at the beginning stages of this journey and I wanted to get a sense of all the different experiences that other women had gone through....all the way to the end.  How did their relationship change (if at all) once the baby was born?  How did they deal with the stress of simply waiting and not being in control of anything?  What were their frustrations along the way.  The book is written very candidly, and I highly recommend it to anyone looking to do surrogacy or in the beginning to middle stages of your journey.  I even made my husband read it.  Ha!!

The one thing I didn't find in this book was my particular reason for infertility, but she does have a variety of issues in I think most people will find someone to identify with on a very personal level.

Besides this book, I've found a couple of other favorites that I think are worth pointing out:

  1. Intended Mom Gingerelle's series of Youtube videos giving her account of her twins' transfer and birth.  I found these to be particularly great, and she's very entertaining to boot.  Her surrogate mother also has a great corresponding set of videos too.  Overall, these two might win the world's cutest surro/IM award!!
  2. Bernadette's Journey at her blog Rasta Less Traveled.  I constantly look forward to her updates, and even though she's still in the middle of her journey, it's been great to follow along.  
There are certainly lots of other blogs out there (and you can find them over the right!), but these are my two favorites.  (No disrespect to anyone else out there!!)  Plus most of the other experiences I'm finding on blogs are taking place with SCI in India.  (It seems like everyone on the Internet is going to India these days!)  Since we ended up going with an agency here in the states, I'm constantly on the prowl for more Intended Mom blogs based if anyone knows of any, please let me know in the comments!   My blog reader isn't getting updated frequently enough with posts from other Intended Moms!  (All I do all the time is hit refresh on my blog reader and on my email inbox!!!!  You other intended moms will know what I mean!  And to think that we haven't even gotten to our first transfer yet!!)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

My Bucket List

Yesterday as I was walking home from work, I began thinking about all the things I want to do before kicking the bucket.  And so...I thought I'd keep this as a running list to be a reminder of all the wonderful things yet to accomplish in this life.
  1. Have a baby (We're working on that one!!)
  2. Ride in a hot air balloon
  3. Visit Iceland 
  4. Travel via camper van through New Zealand
  5. Visit South Africa
  6. Go to India  (Funny, our original plan with surrogacy was to use SCI in India, but we ended up finding a wonderful agency here and decided to try doing it in the U.S.!)
  7. Ride in a helicopter through New York City
  8. Visit Alcatraz  (I just booked a ticket for this one actually while on an upcoming business trip!!)
  9. Learn how to quilt  (I bought a book for this one.  Now I just have to start!) 
  10. Visit all the 50 United States.   (So far, I've been to 31!!)

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Monday, February 20, 2012

Worry. Depression. Waiting. Fear. Infertility.

Being an infertile woman is something I know how to do very well...after all, I've been living it for the last....oh....20 years.  Exactly 20 years!  I was 16 when I found out that I wouldn't be able to have a child.  Just like so many of you dealing with infertility, I'll never forget that moment.  That summer after I found out, I just remember falling into a deep depression and never wanting to leave the house.  I didn't feel normal, and I was so angry at God.  "Why would he do this to me?!"  I was so worried that no one would ever love me and a million other fears & worries.  All I wanted to do was sleep it all away.

Luckily over the years, I've grown to love myself and accept the situation.  And even though we're now trying to have a baby with a surrogate, sometimes...that old fear and doubt creeps in.

"What if maybe I wasn't meant to be a mom?"
"Maybe this was the world's way of telling me that I wouldn't be good at it?""
"Maybe I should just spare myself the trouble of having a kid that will grow up and hate me!"  "What if my child turns into a drug addict or kitten killer?!"

I mean, after all...for so many years, I told people I didn't care about having children right?  I didn't even really "like" kids....right?!

Well, it certainly was easier to say that and push it out of my mind than to open my heart and hope.  Open my heart to wanting it.  But all of a sudden, that heart has burst open and can't be controlled anymore.  Still, I worry sometimes.  This whole surrogacy thing is a lot of money.  And trouble.  And pain.  And heartache.  And stress.

I've actually debated whether or not to really go forward with this blog and write here after my first post.  After all, it's scary opening myself up to "the world" about something I kept hidden for so long.  But ultimately I decided to continue on...mainly because I need the support from a community of people going thru the same journey.  With the same fears and worries.   Worry that they will be a terrible mom after all.  Fear that this whole thing is so expensive and in the end, they'll have spent all their savings and still not have a family...

It's a lot easier to just go to sleep and forget about the things that hurt inside.  But I've made this decision to carry on and create a family.  That means having to grow and change....and set aside some of those old fears and worries that I've lived with for 20 years.

And in less than a month we'll be in California for our first transfer!  I'm scared as crap, but excited beyond belief at the same time.  I never thought I'd be this close!!

Saturday, February 4, 2012


Hello blog world!  My name is Michelle, and I'm an intended mom living in Brooklyn.  My husband and I are in the process of trying to have a baby...the hard way.  Via an egg donor and surrogate.

(My mom always told me that I tend to do things the hard way.  I guess she was right. Ha!)

So far we're about 6 months into this process, and after following a bunch of other surrogacy blogs....I decided to start my own.  Partially as a way to document our own process (and to help fill up all the time...waiting), but also because I still feel there are a lot of women out there who just need to feel like someone is going through this process too, and that they're not alone.

At this stage of the journey, we have a surrogate (based here in the U.S.), an egg donor (we're on our second), and we're headed for our very FIRST a month or so.  I'll go into the reasons why we're on our second egg donor, and yet no transfer another time.  Also, I'll elaborate on my infertility story in another post, but for now I wanted to say hi and get something up here.  :-)