Tuesday, January 31, 2012

And Then There Were Two

This blog post written by Tiffany Burke, Surrogate Mother

Two days ago, on Sunday, we had the embryo transfer.   It felt as if it took forever to get to the point!  The night before the transfer I barely slept.  I was so excited, nervous, anxious, ready.  I was ready.    I had a lot of questions going through my head.  Would the transfer hurt?  Would the embryos stick?  Would I feel different right away?   I slept about two hours total that night and while I was sleeping, I had been dreaming that I missed the transfer, I was three days late!  I was crying and so was Natalie's brother.  Natalie does not have a brother.  Dreams are strange.  My alarm woke me up and we did not miss the transfer.  My husband, and our film crew and I drove down to Seattle.   We arrived a little early for some filming and then we went to check in.    When you go to the lab, they have to ID you with your drivers license, then you get a wrist band with your identity.  They took me back to the exam room where I had acupuncture done first.  The acupuncture if supposed to be a two step treatment, one right before the transfer and one immediately following.  The pre transfer treatment is to work on opening your cervix for the transfer and help you with your full blather among other things.  Oh the bladder!  I drank 64 ounces of fluids that morning to give myself a full bladder.  I was able to go to the bathroom after the first 30 ounces, then drink another 34 and hold it.   So uncomfortable, I really thought it would be a piece of cake but that was one of the most uncomfortable parts!  After the acupuncture is over, the embryologist comes in and shows us the pictures of James and Natalie's embryos.  They were so cute and we were all so in love!  How funny.    The embryologist recommended at this point, we transfer two.   We had been thinking two for a long time, but this just made the decision for us.  One embryo had developed a little further along than the other and they thought two was a good choice.    Out of the 13 embryos that had fertilized, at this point, on Sunday, four of them had remained.  These were the strongest two embryos.     

The embryologist went back to the lab and the doctor and ultrasonographer came in to conduct the transfer.  They use a good old fashion speculum and insert it into my lovely lady part.  Then they do a quick test catheter through the cervix and into the uterus to make sure there are no unknown beds (I think - he explained it but I was a little pre-occupied!).  After that lovely time, the embryos get a chance to do the same.   A window in the room opens up, like a drive through window, only it's the embryologist. And instead of handing us two double cheeseburgers for a dollar, she is handing over two embryos for thousands of dollars. Yes, I am cracking myself up!   Okay, so they come right from the lab in their petri dish with my brother's last name on it.  Then they show the embryos up close on the big screen so we can see them.   Then we watch the needle at the end of the catheter suck up the two embryos (technically now called blastocysts).   The doctor then inserts into my lovely lady parts, in the cervix and deposits them into the uterus.  You can actually see them coming our of the needle on the ultrasound.  SUPER cool and surreal.   The doctor holds for 30 seconds, to make sure they don't head back up in there and then finally pulls out!  They set a timer for 15 minutes and I lay there with a really full bladder and count down till bathroom time!  The whole process hurt less than I thought but was still uncomfortable.  My sweet husband held my hand the whole time and kept a cool washcloth on my head.   James and Natalie were there too  (not in view of the lady parts) and were supportive and encouraging.   Here is a quick video a found on youtube that shows the embryos going in.  This is only from the point of view of the ultrasound so nothing gross is on the video and it's actually really cool, just head to this link and watch the video he made, it's about 30 seconds.  This is not a video of me, but just the best one I could find.   Click the picture to be brought to the website to watch the short clip.

After the transfer, James and Natalie and I were crying and hugging each other.   It was such an emotional moment.  We have been waiting so long to get here and all the work everyone has done.  I feel like I have done nothing and that Natalie has had to do most of it, doctors appointments, scheduling, reminders, bills, payments, painful egg retrieval etc etc.  Not to mention dealing with healing from the emotional loss of her uterus and her ability to carry a baby again.  She is so strong, inspiring and positive.  She never says anything similar to a poor me or a why me,  she is always saying, thank you for each blessing coming her way.  She is continually talking about how everything has just lined up perfectly, and although what happened was not ideal, everything else has happened ideally.  I have always loved my brother (all of my brothers) and I never knew I would love Natalie and admire her as much as I do.  We joke we are sister wives, but she is for sure a sister of mine and I am so happy to be able to be in here life and carry a baby for her.  I am hoping we can all send sticky thoughts to my uterus that one of these embies turns into a baby and that we can send positive thoughts to Natalie to keep her strong during this time.    We have to wait until February 9th for the blood test to confirm the pregnancy.   Longest two weeks of our lives.  On a positive note, I do have mild cramping, which could be implantation cramping.   Such a strange feeling to think I could be feeling myself getting pregnant right now! 

As always, thank you for all the support, emails, messages that you send.  We love and appreciate all of you.   We hope you will share our story with other moms, and even dads who are going through fertility issues, or aching for a baby of their own in hopes that this my provide them hope and to ensure them that they are not alone.   


Thursday, January 26, 2012

My Last Three days

This blog post written by Tiffany, Surrogate Mother

So much is happening, so many good things!   On Tuesday, Natalie went in for her egg extraction.   I unfortunately have been sick in bed most of the week so I could not be there.  Sean was there filming for the documentary and was able to get some good footage.  Natalie did great!

To prepare for the egg retrieval, Natalie had to have eight days of stimulation medications, she took Monopur, Lupron and Gonalf all in injection form to produce egg growth.  During this time, she had to have an ultra sound every two days, to watch the egg growth. Eggs are expected to grow two mm every day. On day eight was the final ultra sound and they had grown up to 20 mm so on Sunday Natalie was instructed to take the HCG shot, to trigger the eggs to get ready for fertilization. 36 hours exactly after the shot is taken, is when egg retrieval has to occur.   So Natalie and James arrived at Seattle Reproductive Medicine early Tuesday morning for the procedure.  They brought Natalie back to the operating room and they put her under for about 30 minutes while they did the retrieval. Dr. Lynn was able to retrieve 16 eggs!   When Natalie woke up, she was in a lot of pain but was happy to hear the great news about how many eggs..  They gave her Vicoden for her pain, she rested for about 30 minutes and my brother drove her hom. Later they did an ultrasound on her ovaries and they were the size of an orange, they will stay that way for about a month, fill up with blood, harden and then shrink down to the size of an olive. Interesting right?  So, about those eggs... within 4 hours of retrieval, the eggs get fertilized.  They used my brother's "donation" and put the sperm and eggs in a petri dish and let them go at it!   Va va va Voom!  Then we waited....

Yesterday (Wednesday) we received the news that out of the 16 eggs, 14 of them matured.  Amazing!  We were also told that out of those 14 eggs, 13 of them had fertilized and become embryos!  A baker's dozen!  Wow!  This was such exciting news.   Now, more waiting.  The Embryologist would alert our doctor and nurses which day to transfer, either day three of growth or day five.   Today, we received THE phone call we have been waiting for, we will transfer the embryos on Sunday, day five of growth!  We were told this is great because this gives them an extra 2 days to determine the very best embryos to use for the transfer.  Since of course, we are not putting that school of embryos into my belly!  Just two will be fine, thank you.

So this means I have three days left of not being pregnant.  Three days left before my life will change forever.  Three day left.  Wow... I am excited, a little scared, and nervous.  What will the future bring?   I'm not quite sure, and really that does scare me, I would be lying if I didn't have fears. How sick will I get with morning sickness? Will it be as bad as before?  Am I really going to try to have all natural child birth for the THIRD time?  However, I am so lucky to have such a wonderful, loving family and supportive group of friends to go through all of this with.  The biggest feeling that has overwhelmed me?  Hope.  I am overwhelmed with hope! I feel hopeful that this process will work.  I feel hopeful that things work out how they are supposed to, even in great tragedy.  I believe that when you hope for the best, great things are possible. Actually, ANYTHING is possible, especially when love is involved.  I am hopefully that I will make a difference in this world, not just by the gift of carrying this child, but in so many other ways, for my children and for others reading this. I am hopeful other woman reading this that have struggled do not feel so alone.  I feel hope when I look at my own two children, how precious they are and how so many new wonderful things have come into this world because of them.  I feel the same hope when I see my nephew, Hunter and hope I will give him a sibling he can share his life with.   I have felt the most hope from the people reading this. All the comments, emails, FB messages and support has lit a real fire of hope inside of me.  Without your support and your hope, I would not be as strong, and neither would Natalie.  We had no idea how many people this blog would reach, and with over 16,000 hits, we feel over joyed by the response.  Because of you all, I am stronger, and you are making a difference in my world.  This message from my six year old says it the best:    

Thank you so much for reading, and writing to us.  We are touched by all the comments and stories you have shared with us.  We always call each other with excitement sharing what you all have said.  It means a lot to us and we cannot wait to continue to share our journey with you.   Hopefully the next time I write, I will be pregnant! 

"Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don't give up."
Author:Anne Lamott


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Sex, Love and Other Drugs

This blog post written by Tiffany, Surrogate Mother

We are getting a little racy in tonight's blog post.   Filming a documentary on this journey means opening up our lives and story, the good, the bad, the PERSONAL. So why not start opening up about it now? So tonight I picked the top 3 topics everyone seems most curious about, and asks the most questions about; sex, love and drugs. 

Let's talk about sex. Many (brave) people and close friends have asked me "What if you and Sean get pregnant right before transfer or instead of their baby you get pregnant with your own?"  "What type of pill are you on? What if it fails"    These are great questions!  The truth is, no birth control is 100% unless it is abstinence, yup - I sound like your high school gym teacher who taught you sex education (why were the gym teachers teaching it anyway?).  After careful consideration, Sean and I decided that abstinence would be the best route to take to avoid any accidental pregnancies, especially since we are really fertile!  My doctor said it was a wise choice and said, "Tiffany, it seems if you are in the same room as sperm you just get pregnant, so this is probably the safest option."  Hahahahaha!  Love it. So, since my IUD was taken out a few months ago, Sean and I have remained abstinent.  It has been easy at times and sometimes, not so easy!  I am sure most of you reading this can understand the need for it, but our need to get this baby here is more important and it really does not feel like a big sacrifice.  Plus, there are other things, without getting into too many details! Fun can still be had and when you have a husband as hot as mine, those other things are our saving grace!  And although we did choose that type of birth control for those months, Seattle Reproductive Medicine instructs all GC’s not to have intercourse from the time we start the estrogen (patches, etc) up until we know the results of the pregnancy test.  So currently we would not be allowed to anyway! :)

Let's talk about drugs, the number two question we seemed to be asked.   I am still taking a shot of Lurpon every night.  I was on 10 units and I am now currently down to 5 units.  Sean is filming in LA for a little over a week and I had some lovely guests giving me shots and THEN the snow storm hit and I was stuck in 2 feet of snow and had to administer it to myself.  It took me maybe five tries but I finally succeeded and did not pass out!  I am getting better and will do it to myself again tonight, I am becoming a seasoned pro at this stuff.  I am also currently on the Vivelle dot patches and estrogen tablets I was on previously.  This will help line my uterus and prepare it for the transfer next week.  So far they have not been too bad, I do feel a little more irritable than normal, since I don't normally get irritable or moody, this is different and very recognizable for me so I am able to keep it to a minimum (I hope!).  I have started to feel a little more tired, dizzy, light headed and had a little bit of a loss in appetite - for those of you who know me, we never thought this day would come!  I am eating but have lost 10 lbs since going off of the birth control and onto the Lupron.  Although, being trapped in the house the past few days from the snow up on our little mountain hill and eating out of boredom, I might have added a few L.Bs!

Let's talk about love.  My favorite topic it seems!   So another question I get asked often is, "Are you getting paid to do this?  If so how much?"  I am not getting paid to do this.  Natalie and I did not know at the start of this, it is illegal to pay a surrogate in Washington State.  By the time I realized this, I had already signed the contract and it was too late...... hahahahaha just kidding about that last part!  I would not accept payment for something like this for my family. I am doing this out of good old fashion love.  I think love is so powerful and allows us to do some pretty amazing things with our lives.   I am thankful for the gift of love and the courage it has given me to do this and the courage it has given Natalie to give me the chance to give her and my brother this gift.  We are so very lucky.  James and Natalie do pay for other surrogacy and pregnancy related things though, so we are not paying for anything having to do with this baby, well... maybe I will be buying extra wine for my husband when I get more cranky as I get pregnant!   

We are about a week or so away from the transfer, I go to the doctor on Friday to check my blood levels and uterus lining, next week Natalie will go in for egg retrieval. After the eggs are retrieved and they go hook up with my brother's "donation" they will either transfer the embryos at 3 days or 5 days, it will depend.   I cannot believe we are almost here! I am getting really excited to be pregnant again, not so much the morning sickness, but everything else that pregnancy brings will be such a fun adventure for me, and to feel life growing inside of me again.  

As always, thank you for reading this blog, for sharing it, for commenting and sharing your owns stories.  It has changed us forever.   We have reached over 100 followers on the blog, and have over 400 followers on our FB fanpage which can be found here:  


Also, I will be broadcasting live a few times each week and answering your questions via chat.  We have done this a few times this week already and it has been a lot of fun!  Please email me at TiffanyBurkePhotography@gmail.com if you would like to be on the mail out list for an opportunity to tune in to a live broadcast. We can only take 20 people at a time.

Everyone stay safe in all the weather, and keep your questions, comments and stories coming, we love them all! 

With love,

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Red Wagon

Blog Entry by Tiffany Burke, Surrogate Mother

When I was a little girl, I idolized my older brother, James.  He was probably the coolest kid I had ever known.  I idolized him so much my mom even let me get the same, bowl cut hair style he had (on me it was not pretty but pretty hilarious).   I have many fond memories of us growing up together and all the times he was there for me, the adventures we shared, the life we lived.  For some reason last night, I was recalling a story that I felt compelled to share today.  I must have been about 5 or 6, meaning James was about 7 or 8 years old and James wanted to pull me through the neighborhood on the red Radio Flyer Wagon. I agreed and hopped on the wagon.  He held the handle and pulled me out of the driveway and down the street.  I remember we were coming to a slight hill.   When I say slight, I mean SLIGHT however, enough to increase speed.  James was holding onto the handle and running with it now. I was sitting down with my hands gripping the sides.  Up ahead was a corner, I just kept picturing the wagon tipping over once we hit that corner.  Panic started to set in and I started to cry. "James stop!  Stop!" I yelled.   He slowed the wagon down to a stop and turned to me and asked me what was wrong, I told him how fearful I was that we were going to tip and he said, "Don't be scared.  Jesus is right behind you, holding onto the wagon."   My heart lifted and I turned to look for Jesus. James said, "Well, you can't see him, but he is there and will be with you the whole time."   I felt so much better for two reason; the first obvious reason was Jesus was with me!  Heck yes!  Jesus took time out of his day to hold onto the wagon when I was scared.  How lucky was that?  But the most calming was, that my brother told me not to be scared, and that HE was with me and he was calm about it. I believed in him and I believe in the adventure of the red wagon.   I remember holding on as tight as I could and feeling scared but ready.  I told him I was ready, and he grabbed the wagon handle and started running again.  Speed picked up faster and faster, I gripped tighter and closed my eyes.  I could feel the wind through my (bull style ) hair and felt such joy as we raced closer to the corner.  And then... sadly, I don't remember what happened. I don't remember if we made it to the corner without falling.  I don't recall.  My memory is not what it used to be unfortunately.

To me, it doesn't matter if you believe in God, or Jesus, or a Divine being or nothing at all.  This story reminds me that we can all seek comfort in spirituality and each other when facing times that may scare us. That if you are facing something scary, Jesus could be there with you, you can't see him but it's possible.  Or the fact you have someone physically next to you, holding your hand, telling you it will be okay, makes it a little less scary and lot more easier to face. 

Life is funny now, as I don't really know if I believe in Jesus or God.  James and Natalie are very strong believers, church goers, pray-ers.  I hope I don't lose any readers for not being a current believer, follower and by announcing who I really am by what I believe now.  If there is a God, this is how he made me.  I hope I cannot be faulted if I live a kind, giving life and question my world around me.  Whether God made me or not, this is how I was made.  I do however, believe in the possibility.  And I do believe in a plan.  Whether we made our own plan as souls before coming down here, or someone made it for us, I believe in the cliché that everything happens for a reason, that if we are patient long enough we can look back and see why we took the path we did and how everything lined itself up for the really amazing things in life.   I believe that this baby has been planned long before we knew how it would happen.  I feel great comfort in believing in that plan, believing in the possibility of a spiritual act taking place and mostly, above everything else I believe in love.   I believe that the love for another can conquer all.  I believe that, with love, anything is possible.  Love comes in all forms, from all different types of people and relationships, and amazing things can happen from those that are willing to love and show their love.  My biggest driving factor in all of this is love.  Love for my brother, love for Natalie, love for my nephew and love for that future baby.  Love. Love. Love.

As I go on this adventure, I have more than just my brother with me now.  I have so many others, including my amazing husband, supportive friends and family and perhaps, something Divine.  Everything I have done in my life has prepared me for this next phase.  And after this has all finished, I will be more prepared for whatever comes next.  I know this next adventure with my brother will be scary, and spectacular, I know too I will remember how this one ends, and in the mean time, I cannot wait to start it. 

"I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love."
Mother Teresa

Thank you for reading.

With love,

Saturday, January 7, 2012

We're On Facebook!

We are on Facebook!  Would love if you followed us and told your friends!   

Click the page to be brought to the live FB page and "Like" us!

It has begun!

This blog entry written by Natalie, Intended Mother

The process has officially started! I have waited patiently...or not so patiently for 11 months to begin this process. I have waited and prayed while Tiffany did her Mock cycle and now I finally get to start my part.

We met with our doctor a few weeks ago to go over any questions we may have, fill out our final consent forms, and set us up with a calendar. That to me is so exciting.

The doctor went over our paper work letting us know basically what we were signing. She asked us how we felt about donating our unused embryos, asked us if we wanted to use the remaining sperm for genetic testing etc. She also went over the choices we will have to make when deciding between one embryo or two.

Tonight I injected my first belly shot, Lupron which is also what Tiffany is taking. For my body the drug stabilizes my eggs and makes sure all my eggs are growing at the same rate. For Tiffany (she is also taking Lupron injections) it puts her ovaries to sleep.

So this whole injection thing, not as easy as I thought. I had all this nerve built up for weeks thinking how easy it would be.  I was all ready to do it myself, I grabbed the part of my skin to shoot it into and although the needle is a tiny insulin syringe, actually taking the needle and injecting yourself it quite frightening..... I definitely chickened out.

One more reason to be thankful for my amazing husband. He is absolutely deathly afraid of needles. When we went to the doctors office for the "Injection Training" all he did was look at the needles and he was feeling faint. But he stepped up to the plate and did amazing. I on the other hand was screaming with a pillow over my face talking to my dad on the phone trying to distract myself. All in all, it was NOTHING! I barley felt it and to say it was a prick would be an exaggeration.

I have waited so long for this process to start, it was a long scary trying time for James and I. They say that infertility is one of the most difficult things on a marriage. Thankfully James and I have stuck together and really leaned on each other when times got really tough.

We are finally at this point and getting our bodies ready for all of this I cannot help but get so nervous. I am naturally such a worrier and feeling like I cannot control the outcome of this situation is such a scary thing. All we can do at this point is pray for what God has planned for us. Pray that he will bring us this blessing/s through with the help of my sister in law. Remembering that has given us much peace.

Thank you for reading, and all of your support.  Tiffany and I love the e-mails, comments, and FB messages that have been sent.   Your stories warm our hearts and your words or support help us stay strong.  We have started some filming for the documentary, we are going to film a trailer for Kickstarter.com where we hope to receive most of our funding to film our story.  Stay tuned for how you can help in the next few weeks!  Sharing our story by re-tweeting, facebooking and emailing helps us the most.

Thank you.


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Here Come the Meds

This blog post written by Tiffany, Surrogate Mother

As I sit down to write each blog, I actually go to the blog and listen to the music.  There is something about the music on this blog that moves me to tears.  It brings out emotions inside of me that I wasn't quite sure I had, or was holding in.  Mostly I feel excited.   I pause as I write this (although you just see fluid typing here) because I want to really talk about what else I am feeling.  The past few months I have been getting so many wonderful and deep questions about how I am feeling, or how I will feel. Most people remark about what an amazing gift this is I am giving.  Statements like these make me feel proud, humble, special...guilty.  Guilty?  Yes, I feel that one a lot.  I guess because when people remark over what an amazing sacrifice this is, I don't want to be thought of that way.  I am just doing what I was put here to do, help others who need it in my own way.  This is a way I can help.  We all do great things everyday and I really don't feel any different than whoever may be reading this blog.  Although I cannot answer how I will feel, I can answer this:  I hope to feel as honored to complete this journey as I feel to start it and be apart of it.  I hope I feel as much, if not more joy for a life coming into this world to bless my brother, his wife and their son and of course all of us around this baby/babies.  Babies.   Wow.  That is another question, what if it is multiples?  We have gone back and forth with how many embryos to transfer (as a reminder, I am what is called a Gestational Carrier, meaning it is James' sperm and Natalie's egg, 100% genetically their baby).  We have, at this point decided on 2.  

I seem to be all over the place right now with my thoughts, perhaps I should focus, let's talk about schedule.  Currently I am taking a shot in my belly every day of Lupron, since December 27th until January 22nd.  This was hard for me to start!  I am pretty phobic of needles, but let me tell you, these really are a piece of cake!  The needles are so tiny (I will post a picture) and really are the tiniest pinch ever. I feel like saying "pinch" is an exaggeration of what it really feels like.   I have had everyone from my brother Jonathan, to my parents, to Sean (mostly) give them to me.  I just can't seem to do it to myself!  What a wimp  :)   But it is not painful and maybe itches for a few moments afterwards.   What a relief.  The purpose of the Lupron is to essentially put my ovaries to sleep during this time. Tomorrow I go to the doctor for a suppression check and ultrasound and blood draw.  Sean also goes for a blood draw and we sign some more paperwork.  The amount of paperwork involved!  If everything looks good, I get to decrease my Lupron amount from 10 units to 5 units and start up on hormone patches again then later stop Lupron and go on more fertility drugs.  Egg retrieval is coming FAST.  We have a tentative date for Jan 24th.... and then within 3-5 days after that (depends) we will implant the embryos into me!  9 days later, I can take a pregnancy test to see if it took.   

We are getting SO close.  I am very excited to be pregnant again and nervous too for it all to work out.  We all have been working so hard for this, especially James and Natalie.  I can't believe it is almost here.   We are in pre-production for the documentary and still looking for more funding, stay tuned for those updates. 

One more thought.  I think a lot of us are put here on this earth to face certain challenges in life and over come obstacles, including the way we judge others.  Some of you may not know this, but I was very judgmental of anyone who would use science to have a baby.  I thought - if they were meant to have a baby, they would have one naturally. Why did I think this way? I couldn't really tell you.  Somehow it was planted in my head and there it remained and was eventually regurgitated in judgmental thought.  I believe I was put in this situation to release that judgement, and learn from my past mistakes and school of thought and gain a new perspective on this side of life.  I also never understood what it was like to walk in a woman's shoes who had a hard time conceiving.  It was so easy for my to conceive both my boys, and I never experienced the pain of a miscarriage, or still birth, or even death right after birth.  As I have started down this path, and received email after email from mothers, and heard story after story from friends, my heart has turned inside out.  I have so much pain for these woman who struggle with infertility.  Especial those that struggle silently.  Many woman have come forward and told us they don't feel like a woman, or a proper mother because of what has happened to them.  My heart breaks for them.  I hope this blog continues to do what it has from the beginning, get dialog going, develop understanding of the pain infertility causes, and most of all, develop acceptance of all the different ways each of us comes into this world. I hope we all appreciate the journeys we all have to travel to get to where we need to be.   To all the parents who used science to conceive, I am sorry for judging, and to all the mothers and fathers who have been to hell and back in pain from the loss of a child at any stage, I am sorry for your loss and sorry for not being more understanding in my younger years.   This experienced has made me a better person, and I regret I was not more open before.   I hope no one has to suffer silently anymore and we all can stand together with no judgement and have more compassion and understanding for those in different circumstances than our own. 

“How would your life be different if…You stopped making negative judgmental assumptions about people you encounter? Let today be the day…You look for the good in everyone you meet and respect their journey.” 
― Steve MaraboliLife, the Truth, and Being Free

As always, if you are just finding this blog, please visit the tab "How we got here" to read our stories of how this surrogacy same to be. :)
Tiffany Burke, Surrogate