Sunday, February 26, 2012

Contract Phase

The Lawyers

     What can I say about this phase?  This has to be the absolute worst part.  The waiting began again as soon as the Medical Phase was complete.  We had a schedule in our minds that we were hoping for and we needed the contract to be complete before we were able to lock that down.  So we both made appointments to talk with our lawyers.
The Bump in the Road

     I received a call from Lisa at work.  She was clearly upset and I knew something was wrong.  She told me that she had some really bad news.  I thought at first that something had come back bad with my medical screening.  She told me that her lawyer called her and told her that their was an exclusion in my medical insurance that was missed originally.  This meant that my health insurance was not going to cover any of my medical expenses if I was pregnant through surrogacy.  I was crushed.  I knew that this was bad, but honestly my biggest concern at the time was Lisa.  She was so upset and I just hated not being able to help her.  Neither one of us could understand how this could have been missed.  How we could have come so far and become so close, just to be told it wasn't possible.  I started to get really upset with whoever was to blame for this mistake.  The anger was really taking over me, so I decided to stop and just pray about it.  One of the best things about a relationship with God, is the amazing clarity he gives you within the peace he provides.  I was still very upset about the situation, but I started to see the good in it.  If the agency would have found this exclusion early enough, then we would have never been matched.  As upsetting as this situation was I was just sure that it happened for this reason.  God wanted our families to meet.  He wanted our relationships to form and our friendships to grow.
     When becoming a Gestational Surrogate you are entitled to a fee.  It depends on your contract, but you get a base fee for going through this process.  I had been struggling with this since the beginning.  I wanted to do this and I wanted it to be for God.  I felt like accepting money could be a problem for me.  I just did not want greed to creep into my heart.  Since I am human I know the power of money and I just didn't want that to taint this experience for me and especially for God.  I had been really starting to struggle with this right before Lisa's phone call that day.  I had been thinking about the base fee and what we could do with that extra money.  I know that there is no problem with planning, but I was just struggling with getting too excited about the money.  When I got the call from Lisa I just really wanted to help her.  She was feeling so badly and so hopeless.  She felt like we couldn't work together anymore.  I talked with Ryan and discussed the situation and our options.  I called Lisa back and told her to just take back our base fee.  She immediately said that she couldn't do that.  She said she felt like she would be taking advantage of me.  I explained what I had been struggling with and what I felt God was trying to do in this situation.  I want to carry these babies for Lisa and Joe and nothing was going to stop me, especially not money.  I told Lisa that we would work it out and no matter what we were moving forward.  We both prayed a lot about it those couple of days.  I just made the decision to let go of the money.  If it was God's will for me to have money then he would work it out and if it was not his will then he was trying to teach me discipline in this area of my life and I was just hoping to be able to let go of it.
     God didn't wait too long to answer those prayers.  It turned out that if I switch to insurance through my work the pregnancy will be covered.  There are no guarantees until I actually have the coverage, but this was hope.  We were very excited and could not wait to pass this information on to our lawyers so that we could move forward.  Not that easy of course!!!  This is about the time when we started referring to Lisa's lawyer as Debbie (as in Debbie Downer!!)  She of course said this wasn't good enough until we had something in writing that said that my new insurance would cover me.  So I contacted my insurance provider and got a verbal conformation that I would be covered.  This was not sufficient of course so I asked my provider to email them.  I received an email confirming that I would indeed be covered.  This was still not sufficient according to Debbie!  She started talking to Lisa and Joe about all these supplemental insurance plans they needed to purchase.  At this point I started feeling like maybe Lisa and Joe would be better off letting me go and choosing another surrogate.  Someone who would be less trouble and less of an expense to them.  I mentioned these thoughts to Lisa and she said she wasn't doing this without me.  I would have been really crushed if she decided to let me go, but I also would have understood.  But thankfully she loves me too!!  So we moved on and asked the lawyers to move on.
     They found other bumps along the way too.  Debbie found issues with the hospital that I planned to deliver in.  It didn't have a NICU so she wanted Lisa to ask me to change.  Frustrating that the hospital I delivered all 3 of my children in was not good enough for Debbie.  Then she found an issue with the fact that my work was moving to Missouri.  Missouri is literally 20 minutes from my town, but there was a SLIGHT chance I could deliver in another state.  I mean come on.  I get trying to cover all of the "what ifs", but this just seems crazy.  Lisa explained to Debbie that she was comfortable moving forward and was confident that I would be able to make it to Illinois if I were to go into labor.  Debbie then asked Lisa if she was ok with her baby being delivered in a car.  PAAAALLEEEASSE!!!  Lawyers!!
     My lawyer wasn't much better.  She had to change the wording in the contract here and there and everywhere. I know this is part of their job, it is just extremely frustrating.  Then there was more money needed here and there and everywhere too.  I just said "no"what Lisa put in the contract is fine with me.  I felt like we fought through each section of the contract about wording or money.  It was exhausting and I am just so thankful that this part is O.V.E.R!!!!!

Visit to Chicago + Appointments

The Fertility Clinic

     Lisa had been contacting the clinic to find out when I would hear from them.  On a Monday they told her they would be contacting me later that week.  Well the worst part about this journey is the WAITING!!  Especially for two extremely patient people like Lisa and myself (insert sarcastic voice and a laugh here)!!  So I didn't hear from them until the afternoon on Friday.  She told me that I would need to visit Chicago for a visit with the psychologist, to meet the doctor, sign some paperwork, and a saline ultrasound.  We planned a trip to Chicago for just Ryan and me.  We decided to take the train.  Just FYI the train is amazing!!!!  Round trip to chicago cost me $26 and only took 4.5 hours to get there.  Lisa and Joe were kind enough to let us stay with them.  Lisa picked us up from Union Station at around midnight. Oh my Lisa driving.....well we made it safely back to their place and called it a night.  We woke up and were greeted with bagels from Lisa's dad and then we were off to the clinic.  
     The appointment was very quick.  We met with the doctor and he explained the process and gave us all the information we needed.  He answered all of the questions we had and we were off to the ultrasound.  I was slightly nervous about this part, because online they mention that it can be uncomfortable and that it can cause cramping.  Thankfully neither of them were true for me.  It wasn't uncomfortable at all.  He told me that everything looked great and we would be fine to move forward.  I finished with bloodwork and signing all the paperwork.  We were there for less than an hour.  It was very quick. 
     While we were in the office it had begun to snow.  We left and went to lunch at a mexican restaurant.  We had the pleasure of meeting Joe's sister Ab and her sweet little girl Evie.  We enjoyed some fresh guac and good conversation.  We were going to try to hang out together somewhere, but decided the best thing to do in he weather would be go just get back to their place to hang out.  First we had to stop at the market for Joe to run in an pick up  something special.  Lisa and Joe had to introduce us to freeze dried ice cream.  Had never even heard of it before, but now we have finally tried some.  It was very interesting to eat dry warm ice cream, but yummy at the same time.  
     We spent the afternoon playing with the kiddos.  Ice cream play-doh was a ton of fun.  Then we were able to meet Lisa's mom.  She brought over some amazing cookies.  Not that we ate the whole time we were there or anything.....ok well actually we did!!  It was great to meet some of the family.  It felt very comfortable, like we have known each other for ever.  They made us feel very at home.  We had to start talking about what the plan was to get us back to Union Station though.  On a friday during rush hour and in 8 inches of snow in Chicago.  We decided taking the train to the train would be best.  We stopped for some quick pizza first (yeah I know....more food) and then hopped on the train.  After a quick walk to Union Station we were on our way home........

Friday, February 24, 2012

Lisa: The Beginning

As I sit here enjoying the silence while Clark takes a nap, I can't help but become nostalgic of the last few months. I cannot believe we are 23 days away from another amazing miracle of God's. I guess I should start at the beginning. 
I was born with a life threatening lung/pancreas disease known as Cystic Fibrosis. The expectancy of life was mid twenties. I am now 29 and fighting strong. My lung functions are in the upper 40s to low 50s. In laments terms, I breathe with only 40-50% of my lung capacity. I do about 1-2 hours of breathing nebulizers and chest therapy each day. But I wouldn't change it for the world. My parents instilled a great health ethic into my siblings and I. My DH and I struggled for many years on whether or not I should attempt to carry our child. Before we got married, we ended up deciding that it would be wisest if we found someone to carry for us. My lungs were not strong enough to endure the physical strain a pregnancy could potentially put on me. So long story short, we worked with a wonderful agency to find our first gestational carrier. We have a beautiful, healthy, amazing 3 year old son. 
Ever since he was born, I knew that I wanted to give him a sibling. We never wanted our child to be an only child. Again, we struggled with the idea of me carrying a sibling for CJ. I was doing pretty well physically and we decided let's just meet with some doctors and see if this would even be feasible with all the different doctors' opinions. The most important opinion was my CF lung doctor. I had already met with the RE and a high risk pregnancy dr, and they both gave me clearance to proceed. It all depended on this dr. On the day of my appointment, I had several different tests done to measure my lungs functions and capabilities. I, of course, had a cold. The tests did not come back favorable. I was crushed as he gave me the bad news that he could not in good conscience give me a green light to proceed. I knew deep down that I wouldn't be able to, but just to hear the words said out loud devastated me. I wanted more than anything to give my husband and my son another child. It's quite a sting on your own self worth when you cannot do the one thing God intended for married couples to do. 
My DH and I kept talking about the different possibilities, because let's face it. I wasn't going to give up our dream of another child regardless if I couldn't carry it. To me, the end result of a child is way more important than the ability to bring it into this world. I knew I was being selfish in my heart to take on something like that especially with a young one at home relying on me. We spoke of adoption, but the chances of a couple with one of them having a life threatening illness being approved to adopt seemed slim. We wanted to do another surrogacy journey, but the cost was just out of our reach at the time. We decided to leave it up to God. He was giving me so many signs that it wasn't our time yet. Be patient, He kept telling me. And that is the most difficult things for me. He wasn't saying 'no' to my dreams, He was just saying 'not right now, Lisa. it's not the right time.' I would be lying if I accepted that answer. I was very angry and upset. It's hard to watch others who maybe do not have God in their lives, able to have children with ease. And I always ask "why me, God? What's wrong with me that you won't let me have this?' 
Well, God has a plan. Yes, it's frustrating that we aren't able to see it right away. I know for myself, I want instant gratification. But that only gratifies you temporarily. I kept praying and trying to focus more on other things in my life instead. 
We ended up reading an article of a woman who was the gestational carrier for her daughter and her daughter's husband. She had already gone through menopause, but through the miracle of God, she was able to birth her grandson. It sparked a thought that had been placed on the back burner before DH and I got married. His mom, my MIL, had offered to be our surrogate. At the time, that wasn't really possible. But after hearing this, we all got very excited and decided to pursue it. We met with the same RE as the woman and received positive news, that we could move forward. We did our pysch screenings and were on the lawyer phase, when my MIL met with a high risk OB. Her medical advice was that if we were to proceed and ended up with twins (as we have 2 frozen embryos to transfer), that she'd strongly recommend reduction. Neither parties wanted to do that. So we decided again to take a step back from this and pray about it. 
I decided to email the agency we had previously worked with to see about getting started on finding us another match. Unfortunately, since Illinois is such a surro-friendly state, there was a "waiting list" for Illinois surrogates. We were only interested in working with someone who was in Illinois for many different reasons. So I updated our intended parents profile, and we began the waiting game. We went to Disney for a family vacation where I heard from the agency of a potential match. I looked at her profile (while waiting for the guys to ride splash mountain) and became very excited. She sounded so great. She lived a little further than we wanted, but I was so anxious to get started that I emailed the agency back and asked if they could share our profile with them. They liked us as well, but then we discovered that IF it were triplets, she would want to most likely reduce. Well, I was just so excited to finally have found someone, that I didn't mind that because realistically, I did not see our 2 embryos splitting into triplets or more. I talked it over with DH who, thankfully (although I was not thankful or happy at the time), told me that he didn't want to work with them because they were too far away. I prayed about it because I was so upset. I just wanted us to be pregnant again. God again answered my prayers and we did not proceed with them. 
We came back home and I was pretty bummed, but I knew He had a plan and a perfect couple for us, where we wouldn't have to have a shadow of a doubt on any decisions, whether tiny or big. The week before my son's third birthday I received an email from the agency. They had a potential surrogate for us. I read her profile and it all just clicked. She was EVERYTHING that I was searching for. She even talked about God, which was awesome. Because I felt God was speaking to us, bringing us together. I remember thinking 'man, she is so bold. she talks about God in her profile and isn't afraid to say it even if it possibly frightens someone away.' I knew we were on the same page. I knew God put us in this place, at this time, this perfect time for us. Then the agency said they were coming up for a visit that weekend, so we could meet! I didn't have to wait and wait to meet these amazing people. We agreed right away.
I was so nervous that what if they didn't like us. What if I didn't say the right things, what if we weren't a good match, what if the kids didn't like each other; because not bringing CJ wasn't an option. They were bringing their kids. I was so excited to see him interact with this family that would potentially become our close friends. We arrived and I just knew it would be fine. CJ loved playing with their boys. We were so easily able to talk and laugh. It seemed like we knew them from before. Yes, it was still a tad awkward because I didn't want to say the wrong thing because sometimes when I'm nervous I say dumb things. But they were just so friendly and open. We talked for so long and we barely got to cover the "surrogate agency" type questions. I left beaming because I just knew God was smiling for us. And I could almost hear Him say 'I told you. When will you learn to just trust me?' We were instant friends from that day on. 
I remember getting her cell number and texting her for the first time. Boy was I nervous! But since then, we have had such great rapport. In fact, we just got back from visiting them this weekend. What a great time that was. Again, they are just amazing people, amazing family, and the kids had a blast together. I cannot wait to see what God has planned for us. 
More later... 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Lori-The Beginning

The Reason
The Fam

I have been blessed with 3 amazing children.  Koen, Brayden, and Isabella are my sweet gifts from God.  I believe that God speaks to us, obviously not in the literal sense, but through things.  I think the first time God gave me the idea of doing surrogacy was when I waited in the doctors office for an appointment.  I was pregnant with Brayden at the time and as I waited in the waiting room I started flipping through a magazine.  I came to an article about surrogacy.  Honestly I hadn't really heard much about it before.  I read this article about a woman who had given birth to 8 children and blessed many different families with a child.  It was immediately something I knew I was made to do.  God has blessed me with amazing pregnancies.  You don't hear many women say that they love being pregnant, but I really do.  Thank the Lord I have not suffered from morning sickness or any of the other serious effects.  I have little things of course, but nothing worth complaining about.  It is just a beautiful thing that I enjoy the entire 9 months.  The next time I heard about surrogacy was possibly a sign from God too, but when I say this people laugh!!  (understand that I hadn't really heard of surrogacy before this)  It was only days after reading this article that I was watching television and saw a preview for the movie "BABY MAMMA". (ok yes you can laugh-But God can use silly movies too).  It was just crazy to me to have never heard about this process and then in just a few days hear something twice.  I decided to talk to Ryan about it.  I told him that I really felt that this was something I was made to do.  He agreed immediately and said he would support me fully.  I did some research and decided that we needed to complete our family first, because of the risks involved.  The idea was put on the back burner for awhile.  In December 2010 we had our little girl and our family was complete.  I decided to start the research again.  I started applying with agencies all over the U.S.  I had c-sections with each of my children.  For this reason I started being turned down by many agencies.  Many wouldn't even talk to me when they found this out.  In November 2011 I found an agency in Chicago that was willing to talk to me.  They even contacted some of their physicians and let me know that another c-section would be completely safe for me.  I decided to let all of my family know and move forward in this journey.  This process is truly a miracle and I am so thankful to be a part of it.

The Match

The first thing you must do in this process is make a profile.  This means that you have to fill out this 17 page questionnaire and another couple of pages of about us information.  There were many difficult questions to answer.  The most important were dealing with what is called multiple reduction (such a terrible phrase-means to abort to get to the desired number of surviving embryos).  My answer to this question was a resounding "NO".  I was told during my research that this answer was not desirable for Intended Parents (IP's).  They told me that I would have a very hard time finding a match, because of this answer and encouraged me to change it.  The next tough question is about aborting for "serious medical conditions".  These include Downs syndrome and again my answer was "NO".  They told me that if I answered no to these questions that I could be on the waiting list for a very long time if I was ever matched.  I honestly had to pray alot about this.  I knew my answer would never change, but it is hard to set your mind to something like this and then be told you probably won't be able to do it if you stick to your views.  I was finally at peace with this and answered the questions on this questionnaire with my "NO" answers.  I decided that this was God's plan for me.  I was doing this for his glory and he would find me a worthy couple who shared these same views.  I accepted that I would have to be patient and wait for God's match.  

After turning all of the paperwork in and the medical information. It was time to wait.  Well God must know how impatient I am, because it was almost immediately we were matched with a couple.  I was so excited to receive their profile.  To see their pictures and read about their story.  They were an older couple in their 50's.  They had been trying to conceive for over 10 years.  This wasn't exactly what I had pictured in my mind when I thought of what it would be like, but what an amazing story.  I was very excited about being matched, but their was a weird feeling that I had.  I figured it was just nerves and that once we got to know them it would go away.  They requested to meet us right away.  We planned a trip to Chicago to meet them in December 2011.  Early in the week that we were scheduled to go I received a phone call from the agency.  It was a voicemail saying I am really sorry to tell you so late, but the IP's have found someone in their family to carry for them.  I was really disappointed by this for selfish reasons, but happy for them at the same time.  This disappointment was short lived, because in that message she told me that they had another potential match for us.  I couldn't believe it, since I was told it would be so hard to find people who matched with me.  I received their profile and I can't even explain to you how perfect it was.  They were such a cute family.  They had a little boy that was born through a previous journey and was about the same age as our boys.  They were Christian's and had the same resounding "NO" answers to those tough questions.  They were not able to carry thier own children, because Lisa has a disease called Cystic Fibrosis (CF).  I was so thrilled that I was going to be able to help them add another miracle to their family.  That "off feeling" was gone completely.  Replaced by pure excitement and a sense of peace about the whole thing.  I even told the agency how much better I was feeling about this match.  The only way I can describe it to you is that it was just a "God thing"!  I just knew that this is what he had planned for us.

The Meeting

We had already booked the trip to Chicago. It was a big chance but I asked the agency if this new couple would possibly be able to meet on such short notice. It was only days away but they called back and said they wanted to meet us. The whole family packed up and drove to Chicago.  It was a perfect day in Chi-town with a light dusting of snow and enough warm sunshine to make it perfect for a walk through the park to Shedd's Aquarium.  We spent the beginning part of that day enjoying the fish and going back to the hotel for a swim.  Then it was time to go to the agency to meet Joe, Lisa, and Clark.  I had pictures of them and a profile with some information about them, but meeting them in person was so different.  The first thing I remember thinking is "this is going to be more than a surrogacy arrangement! We are going to be friends". It started with the children. They got along so well so fast. It was easy to see they were going to be buddies since CJ was so willing to share his toys the boys were instantly friends. The next thing I noticed was the connection between Ryan and Joe. Ryan is usually so quiet, but they talked nonstop the whole time. We were supposed to meet for an hour. It turned out to be about 2 and a half hours. We just talked and talked and talked. I loved Lisa. It is harder for women to make first impressions on each other. We are thinking the whole time " what does she think of me?". " am I talking to much? Saying the right things? Does she like me?". Even with all that in my head I just loved her. Like I said before this was a God thing. This is the couple I pictured when I first started dreaming of this journey.

The Friendship

     That Monday I got a call from the agency.  She told me that Lisa had emailed her and said that she wanted to move forward with us.  She said that usually the gestational surrogate (GS) and the intended parents (IP's) do not exchange information until after the psych screening is completed.  She told me that Lisa was ok with exchanging information right away if I was ok with that.  I was giddy inside-I am kind-of of embarrassed to say how excited I was.  Just waiting and waiting so impatiently for that first text message.  I could tell when we met that we would be friends, but it was crazy how nervous I was to hear from her.  After the first message our friendship took off.  That first week we did not go a full day without texting.  It should have been a sign of what was to come.  All I can say is I am so thankful for unlimited text messaging, because wow would we have some huge bills to pay otherwise.  We would chat so much that even our husbands started to get annoyed by us!  Jealous we would say because we were up texting so late at night!  But honestly it was so fun getting to know her and sharing who I am with her.  We shared so much information in such a short time I can't even tell you all of it, but there is one conversation that I really felt like I got to know Lisa.  It was hard for me to ask questions about her disease, because I was so worried to say the wrong thing or in the wrong way, but I built up the courage to ask her about it.  That night was when I first realized Lisa's strength.  I don't know how it would feel to walk in her shoes, but I am pretty sure I would not be able to handle it with such strength.  I was amazed by her positive outlook on the whole situation.  She admitted her struggles  with it, but with every struggle she had a blessing.  She just amazes me.  I could not be more proud of our friendship.  If I could change anything, it would be to somehow allow her to carry herself, but being beside her and being a part of creating another miracle for their family is honestly my pleasure.  And so the friendship begins......