Sunday, September 29, 2013

Ultrasound #2

"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." Psalm 139:14

So the results of the long-awaited ultrasound #2 were in on Thursday (now three days ago, so I'm sorry this is late).  The baby has a strong heartbeat, Dr. Hickman said everything looked good as far as size, of the baby, of the yolk sac, of everything.  He (she) has a heartbeat of 127 beats per minute, which is very good for this stage.  Baby measures 6 weeks, 5 days, though we are at 7 weeks- but this is perfectly normal as well.  The baby is now twice as big as last week, last week the size of a green pea, this week the size of a blueberry!

Marc and I were very nervous about this appointment.  We didn't even talk much on the way, or the night before.  We knew that if there was no heartbeat, that could be a very bad sign.  There was a huge sigh of relief when the Dr. told us there was a heartbeat, and it was the first thing he told us!

Dr. Hickman let us listen to the heart- which was amazing!  Amazing doesn't even begin to explain the feeling I had, as I was in tears listening to that little heartbeat.  In Greek there is a better word to describe this feeling than "amazing," and I learned about this while I was working on my Bible study the morning of the ultrasound:

In the Book of Acts, when Paul left for his first missionary journey, he landed on the island of Cyprus.  There was a sorcerer who was employed by the governor of the province he was in.  The sorcerer was hindering the faith of the governor, and, as his first miracle, Paul blinded the sorcerer.  In Acts 13:12, it says, "when the (governor) saw what had happened, he believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord."  The Greek translation for "amazed" means "to knock one out of his senses."

Oh, how we have been "knocked out of our senses" by the work of God!!

Baby's development at seven weeks:

The liver is producing red blood cells until later when the bone marrow will form and take over this role.  Body parts are becoming more specialized, such as the heart and brain.  Even at this early stage, baby has an appendix and a pancreas.  Tooth buds, a palate and a tongue are forming.  Ears are continuing to develop and the baby now has eyelids!  Skin is very thin, and organs can be seen through it.

A closer look at 7 weeks:

Monday, September 23, 2013

Excuse me for just a moment...

....but I feel the need to detour for just 1 post from our regularly posted updates.  I feel the need to state the obvious, vent just a little bit, and then I will return you to our regularly scheduled program :)

I have been seriously bothered by a recent blog post I read.  Its really been bugging me.  And while this is my "diary" and I have spent countless minutes posting complaints and sob stories, I have always done my very best to keep this blog focused where it should be....on all of the positive experiences that surrogacy has brought to my life, of the blessings I have felt, of the miracles I have witnessed time & time again.  I don't claim to be perfect, but I do hope that my attitude has always been one of humble thanks.

Anyway, back to the blog post....when I read it, I was left sickened.  The particular post was one from a fellow surrogate, not anyone I know or am familiar with, but one that my current IM Carrie led me to.  Its a blog she has been following, and she simply inquired as to whether or not I happened to know this particular woman.  Her name didn't ring a bell, but I glanced at some of her recent posts, then decided to close my browser.  You see, one of her posts struck a terrible nerve with me, filled with lots of profanity (masked in symbols and letters).  Profanity is what it is, lots of 4 letter words that I choose not to use in my daily life.  My mother always told me that profanity was a sign of ignorance; that it was someone's lack of ability to express themselves with anything other than a simple 4-letter word.  I'm not judging someone by their vocabulary, but to me, posting something of that nature on the internet, where it will be forever read and seen (even if deleted later), isn't a very good idea, and is a poor reflection of someone's character.  And further, the idea that my IM has been following her blog, and read her tirade, has just upset me all the more.

You see, I am a surrogate mother.  I have carried 3 precious miracles of my own and have experienced everything that motherhood entails.  I have been blessed beyond measure to carry 1 little miracle for Allison, sweet little Emma, 1 beautiful little miracle for M&A, Alexandra, and now another little miracle baby for my current IP's Carrie & Marc.  My road hasn't always been easy, my last pregnancy landed me on the OR table having a c-section, and my path has been filled with allot of ups & downs.  But, through every little valley, I have always given thanks for the road I have walked.  I have always attempted to redirect my complaining to the gratitude of being able to do what I have done for the families God has placed in my life.  The little inconveniences I experience to get to where I am, they are just little inconveniences, blips of time that pass, ending in such an amazing joyful moment, no words can describe it.

Sometimes things just stink - reactions to shots, nausea, vomiting, aches & pains - in my book, all worth every single second.  Its not fun and definitely not all daisies & roses when I'm in the big middle of it, but it is something I chose to deal with.  I knew full-well what I was in for for the most part!  I didn't blindly sign a consent form and then say "Wait a minute!  You didn't tell me A, B & C!!!  This sucks, and I'm done!!!!"  There have been allot of things I was clueless about, but when I reached those moments, I had to stop & think....what would my IM give to be in my shoes at this very moment?  Likely just about anything!!!  Its not about me, it's about my IP's and their undeniable desire to become parents.  Its about me, giving of myself for a short span of time, to bless someone else with a gift no words can explain.  To get to the end game of giving back what they have asked me to care for for a brief 9 months.  Its also not about me being anyones hero or tooting my own horn, but about my desire to simply bless someone.

To know that my beautiful, kind-hearted, sweet IM had to read the tirade of a hormonal woman upset about the discomfort she's experiencing at this time upset me.  I can completely relate to the frustration and discomfort, 150%, but I just feel sorry for her.  For the fact that she took the time to post such an ungrateful post, and for my IM to have read it, just makes me wonder what her IP's must be feeling?  I, for one, know many MANY ladies that would give their right & left arms to experience every single ache & pain & discomfort to carry their own child, and yet this GS went off saying she couldn't do it for 5 or 6 more weeks.

Um, excuse me, have you lost sight so easily of the end-game?

Ok, I'm done....

Carrie & Marc, M&A, and Allison, you guys will never know how very grateful I am to you.  Your ability to trust me, a total stranger for the most part, to care for your precious off-spring, brings me to my knees time & again.  I am and will forever be blessed by the friendships we have formed, and for the life-long relationships we will have.  I wanted you to know that I truly appreciate each of you.  You are loved!!!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Six Week Ultrasound!

"With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."  Matthew 19:26

Well, we got very good news at the ultrasound: we have a perfect, little bean growing.  We were all nervous, but I think we all knew that there would be one little guy in there with all the nausea Jenn's been having and all the positive pregnancy tests! The doctor didn't know these things, and all he had was our three low betas (9.8, 26.9, and 84.6).  He slipped the words "I'm shocked" (Jenn and Marc heard it!) when he found the baby on the ultrasound, and it did take him awhile to find it!  Here is our little bean:

It measures 5 weeks 6 days, give or take a couple of days, so it has caught up and is right on the mark as far as development.  Dr. Hickman measured the fetal pole (which really just shows it has a head and a tail).  The darker spot above the "bean" is the yolk sac.

So I needed more information about what the low beta numbers meant: did the blast attach late, did it attach on time and just develop slowly?  He said it attached when it should have, but didn't start making the placental cells as rapidly as others do, and there really wasn't an answer to why.  I asked him what the statistics were as far as such a slow-starter developing into a full-term baby... are we talking 1 in 10, 1 in 100?  He said that if this becomes a full-term pregnancy, we would be the first in HIVF history starting with a beta under 10 (he's had one survive at a beta of 10).  That is 1 in 24,000!  This is the information I felt was completely overwhelming!!!  If things go well with this baby, if we make it, this would truly be a miracle baby!!

Jenn had bloodwork done, everything looks good, and HcG is very good at 2,493!

As far as baby's development goes: Wow!  A lot has been happening in the weeks between three and four; some would say the most in the baby's entire development!  Now it is the size of a sweet pea.

It has developed leg buds and arm buds, a lower and upper jaw, and eye spot, nose spots, and a heart bulge.  It has a very primitive circulatory system and blood is pumping!  It still has a yolk sac that it is dependent on for nutrients, as the umbilical cord is not yet complete.

Here is a closer look:

Much cuter than last week!!

A friend shared with me this video:

This is the most realistic depiction I have seen!
Here is a screen shot of a 32-day baby, three days away from today:

It looks like an alien, and not nearly as cute as the cartoonish pic above.  The two circles just below the headlike structure is the heart developing, and you can really see the upper and lower jaws.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

'Twas the Night Before Ultrasound....

....and I am still peeing on tests :)  

This one is a video that you should watch :)  For those that aren't pee-a-holics (or surrogates), this might be something you've never seen!  The 1st dark line to appear is the "positive" marker, and the 2nd, much lighter line is the "control".  Its always awesome to see the positive show up before the control!!!

And this Bag-O-Pee-Sticks would be my collection since 3dp5dt.  Marc & Michael both say I could make a small fortune selling the positives on Craigslist, LOL :-D

Our u/s appointment is scheduled for tomorrow @ 11:30, and I'm hoping that Carrie or I (or maybe Carrie AND I) will be posting some really good news.  Prayers are appreciated!

Monday, September 16, 2013


Just thought I'd say that Thursday can't get here fast enough!!!!

That is can resume your regular activities now :)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Three Weeks Old

Today, it's been three weeks since fertilization.
The most surprising thing I learned is that our baby has a yolk sac!

Just like a chicken.  It serves the same purpose, to nourish the growing embryo before the umbilical cord develops.

This is what things should have looked like about a week ago:
The entire embryo is still covered by the uterine lining.

As you can see, the embryo has expanded and now contains a yolk sac and an amniotic sac, with placental cells growing around it.

The cells that will become the baby (here, titled the "embryo," so as not to confuse, ha!) line themselves up into two layers.

Here, it's about the size of a poppy seed.

Here's what things look like now:

The entire thing is still covered by the uterine lining, but boy, those placental cells really have been growing! The third week after conception marks the beginning of the embryonic period, when the brain, spinal cord and heart begin to develop.  Here, where the cells that have lined themselves up in two layers in the previous week, are now becoming the neural tube.  From the neural tube, the brain, spinal cord, nerves, and backbone will develop.

Here's a closer look of the baby:

Isn't it cute?

The baby has three layers: the ectoderm, mesoderm, and and endoderm. The ectoderm (the outer layer of cells) will turn into skin, nervous system, eyes, and ears.  The mesoderm (the middle layer of cells) will turn into the heart, bones, muscles, kidneys, and reproductive system.  The endoderm will become a tube-like structure and the lungs, intestines, and bladder will develop from it.

(what is confusing about finding pictures is that most are considered "5 weeks" at this stage, since the pregnancy is timed at the beginning of the last period.  We know our date of conception, and know our baby is exactly three weeks old.)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Pictures Tell Their Own Story...

Before Transfer - our wonderful NC Barb :)

Lucky Socks!

An awesome gift basket

Prayers after transfer...My favorite nurse CJ is such an amazing prayer warrior!!!!  I specifically asked for her to come in to pray over us.  Not a dry eye in the room when she was finished.

After transfer...Do I have that "just knocked up" look yet?!?  

The best "after transfer" snack...pineapple has enzymes that help with the embryo implantation.

First tests were very negative :(  But 5dp5dt (5 days past a 5 day transfer) is still very early, so we weren't losing hope!

My 1st super-faint-can-hardly-see-it-without-super-surro-vision positive :)

And later, another super-faint-barely-there positive

The next day at lunch time was slightly darker, but at 7dp5dt, it was still very light.  At this point, I was beginning to think we had a chemical pregnancy.

These are the EPT tests that Carrie had given me in my super-cool basket.  Unfortunately the blue dye isn't as sensitive as the pink dye.  BUT, you could see the super-faint plus sign here.

This was my collection of tests as of 7dp.

At 8dp, it was more visible, but just as light as the day before.  At this point, I was preparing for bad news on beta day!

Beta day arrived (9dp9dt), and we felt like our piddly 9.8 was a sign of what we had assumed we'd hear - likely, we had a chemical pregnancy.  But Carrie & I decided to keep testing, just to see what might happen.

Our 2nd beta at 11dp5dt did something we didn't quite expect it to do!  We were almost tripled at 26.4! Wowzers :)  Relief, but still worry as to what might happen after a few more days.  Another beta was scheduled.

Our 3rd beta at 13dp5dt tripled AGAIN to 84.6!!!  We were shocked, and so very excited with the news.

But I'm still testing.  Its the need to see that positive line get darker.  

These tests were today, at 15dp5dt.  The positive line was visible quicker than the control line :)  

And because I have an amazing IM, I received a special delivery of these today via FedEx!  My nausea has been out of control, and in the past, these have been my saving grace.  I'm so thankful that Carrie bought these for me, without my knowledge, because when I headed to the maternity store to get them after work, I discovered the store wasn't there any longer :(    I was a little worried about what I would do to try to control my nausea moving forward, but now I have no worries :)  Let's just hope they do they trick!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Good News!

Do you like roller coasters?  I don't.  I hate them and would much prefer to stay safely on the ground.  I'm not liking this roller coaster ride we're being put through: the up's and down's that seem to happen every two days when Jenn gets bloodwork done!

Yesterday's report brought some very good news!  Jenn went in for bloodwork again yesterday and the beta level has almost tripled!  As of yesterday it was 26.9.  That is great news!  We are back in the game, and it is looking less like this was a chemical pregnancy.

Why did this happen?  Well, one possibility is that our little embryo took awhile to hatch and implant- it took longer than the 36 hours it usually takes.

Contemplating our Situation: Life, God and the Power of Prayer

Although our circumstances are unusual outside the world of IVF, and in regular life a woman would not even know she was pregnant in two weeks time (today our embryo is 17 days old- 5 days in a petri dish, then 12 days since transfer).  She would not know or worry about her hCg levels or worry about numbers increasing or doubling.  She would not know which day her baby was conceived, but only have a vague idea later on.

There is one woman in history who was aware, before any reproductive technology was invented, the day (or very close to the day) her baby was conceived.  That woman was Mary, the mother of Jesus.  In the angel Gabriel's explanation to Mary's question "How will this be, for I am a virgin," the angel explains, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:36).  Soon after this, Mary made the trip to see her cousin Elizabeth.  The journey was about 60 miles, and it is estimated that travel time was roughly one week.  Elizabeth greeted Mary when she was at a very early stage of pregnancy (possibly two weeks), carrying "only" an embryo. Elizabeth said to her, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!  But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord shall come to me?" (Luke 1:42-43).

Mary, in this very early stage, was recognized as a mother, and Jesus is recognized as her son, a baby. Knowing what I know now about embryo development, I am in awe of what is probably less than a 1-2mm in diameter embryo.  So tiny yet so miraculous.  Marc and I believe life begins at conception.  Insight into this story reinforces our view.  We call this embryo our baby.

Also, for all those who have been praying for us, and we feel truly blessed to be included in your prayers, we believe the Beta numbers are going up because of you.  I believe the numbers are being "prayed up."  God has a sovereign plan in all of this, and that plan includes prayer.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Bad News

This morning Jenn went in for bloodwork so that they could see what her beta numbers are.
We got the results around 12:30.  They were not good.  9.8.  This means that there's still a small chance the pregnancy could take, but a much bigger chance that this is a "chemical" pregnancy, meaning the embryo attached but dissolved.

So, what are beta numbers?

"Beta" numbers are short for Beta hCG (human chorianic gonadotropin).  HCG is otherwise known as the "pregnancy hormone," and is made by the cells that form the placenta.

I've read that anything above 25 is a positive pregnancy (anything below 5 is a negative pregnancy), and this number (in 85% of pregnancies) should double every 48 to 72 hours until they drop down and level off at 8 to 11 weeks.

A low beta could mean a very early miscarriage (otherwise known as a chemical pregnancy) or a blighted ovum (meaning the embryo has attached itself to the uterine wall, but has not developed).  Even some increase in hCG levels could still point toward a blighted ovum- as the placenta can continue to grow without a baby for a short time.  A blighted ovum is usually caused by abnormal chromosomes.

Sunday, September 1, 2013


It's been five days since transfer.  This Thursday, Jenn will go in to get a pregnancy test done, and then we'll know.  We'll know if at least one of these little embryos was successful in its voyage.

In the meantime, I feel like I should update everyone on the fate of our other embryos.  As of transfer day, we still had nine other embryos growing.  Here is the chart I was given of their status.

Embryos #1 and #2 were transferred.  Here, the "1" means Stage 1 blastocyst and the "M's" mean morulas. For  #7, "EM" means early morula, and the rest, "MC's," mean multi-cellular.  As of Day 6, Embryos #3 and #4 had become full-blown blastocysts: Grades 4AA and 4BA.  These were frozen.  We have two great frozen embryos!  As for the others, their growth was so slow that their development was considered "arrested" by Day 6, so they are no more.

So here we are, waiting.  Still four days to go...